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Jul 25, 2022

A Shark Native to the Freezing Artic Waters Found in Belize

What is a half-blind shark with a life span of up to four hundred years, and native to the Arctic and North Atlantic oceans doing in Belize? The Greenland shark, known to scavenge on polar bear carcasses in ocean temperatures below thirty five degrees Fahrenheit was for the first time found in the Caribbean Sea. The discovery was made by a team of researchers from the Mote Marine laboratory and Aquarium in May of this year off in the Glovers Reef Marine Reserve. The find has left shark researchers with more questions about this shark specie. News Five’s Paul Lopez spoke with one of the researchers who made the discovery.


Paul Lopez, Reporting

It is one of the rarest sightings in this part of the world, a Greenland shark in the western Caribbean Sea. The Greenland shark is one of the largest cartilaginous fish, with a body temperature of less than thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit, the same as the water it inhabits far north in the Arctic and North Atlantic Oceans. Back in May, Hector Martinez and a team of researchers with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium were out at Glovers Reef conducting research when they caught a Greenland shark in a most unlikely environment.


Hector Martinez

Hector Martinez, Researcher, Mote Marine Laboratory

“We went out on the east side of Glovers, we set the line down on north east caye , went maybe half mile out north east of the caye, went maybe south east. It got really windy, couldn’t pull the line as often as we wanted, so we waited until morning and when we went up to pull the line, the anchor that we had dropped probably half mile out had swung all the way around to maybe two and a half miles, three miles from where we dropped it, so we were like, there has to be something big on that line to drag that thing far out. The line was pretty long, so it was pretty heavy.”


Martinez and his crew spent the next two hours pulling the shark to the surface. At first, the captain of the boat, Martinez’s uncle, thought that they had captured an Atlantic six-gill shark, a more common sighting in these parts.


Hector Martinez,

“When I first saw that thing coming up, I was controlling the hydraulic motor to pull the line. The captain, my uncle, he is like something is coming up. No one ever thought it was that. It looked this big, this long, but like this wide. So, I was like what the hell was that. So, as it kept coming closer it looked like a monster. I was like, shit, is this thing going to jump in the boat. But, once we floated it up we saw what it was. We didn’t think it was a Greenland Shark.”


Without accurately identifying the shark, the team took a video and proceeded to release the beast. Through that video, Demian Chapman, the Director of Sharks and Rays Conservation Research at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, identified the shark as a Greenland shark. It is the first time in history that a Greenland shark has been found in the western Caribbean Sea.


Hector Martinez

“The Greenland shark belongs in Greenland. It has that name for a reason, so it belongs in Greenland. I think it is up in Canada a lot. That is one of the main amazing parts, it doesn’t belong in Belize. Also, it has never been recorded in Belize to my knowledge. When we go out there, we are always curious to see what is coming out from the depths. I hope to catch a White Shark one of these days. I don’t know if that day will come. You have probably heard that they spotted Orcas off Ranguana Caye several years back. So, we definitely get some rare creatures out there. So, there is that hope of catching something even, well I don’t know if we will catch something rarer than that, because that is very rare, but it’s like lottery. You will probably have a better chance at winning the lottery.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Paul Lopez.



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