Baby sharks are now one of the most common marine mammals on Ireland’s coast, but their bites have become so frequent that they are now being labelled a species of emergency.
Baby sharks, or Carcharodon carcharias, are small, brownish fish that have long been popular with aquarium enthusiasts.
But their bites are increasingly becoming a cause for concern as the animals’ numbers and numbers of juveniles grow.
A recent report in the journal ZooKeys found that the number of juvenile sharks that had been euthanased in Irish waters dropped by more than 90% in the past year.
In contrast, there was a significant increase in the number that were euthanised in the previous year.
The report concluded that the rise in the numbers of the species is being driven by the rapid decline of the population.
Baby shark populations in Ireland have been steadily increasing for a decade.
The number of baby sharks in Irish seas was 1,852 in 2016, up from 1,569 in 2011.
But the report found that this is the lowest recorded number in the country since at least 2003.
The Irish Sea Aquarium Association (ISAA) has warned that this trend of increasing deaths from shark bites is putting Irish waters at risk.
The ISAA has said the increase in fatal shark bites in Irish sea is “unacceptable”.
The Irish Aquarium Society has also criticised the increased mortality, saying the number is likely to continue rising as the species matures and adults become more aggressive.
The IASA’s executive director, Jim Larkin, said the decrease in the death rate of juvenile sea turtles has been driven by changes in how people catch them and the introduction of technology that can catch juveniles from shallow waters.
“There are so many of them around the world, they’re just swimming around in a very good habitat,” he said.
“People are just not using the same techniques to catch them.”
In Ireland, only 1,000 sea turtles are currently kept in tanks, with an average of 30 hatchlings per tank.
In the UK, the total number of sea turtles is estimated to be around 500,000, with the vast majority kept in captivity.
The rise in shark attacks is also affecting the populations of some other marine species, with a rise in juvenile dolphin deaths in Ireland as well as a rise of juvenile shark deaths in the UK.
“The sea turtles that are in Ireland now are a little bit bigger than before and that has meant that there are fewer and fewer of them,” Mr Larkin said.
“There is an increase in juveniles, there are an increase of juveniles that are smaller and smaller and that is leading to more fatalities.”
The Irish Government said it was committed to protecting the welfare of the marine life of the country.
“As a government we are committed to safeguarding marine life in Irish and UK waters,” Environment Minister Michael Creed said.