Abu Dhabi divers save young shark during shipwreck trip

The blacktip reef shark was in danger after being caught on a hook

Divers exploring a shipwreck in Abu Dhabi have rescued a young shark that was fighting for its life.

The group of eight had been diving near Lion City, a sunken tanker about 35 nautical miles off the coast, when they spotted the fish. It was snagged on a foam block by a hook caught in its mouth.

At first they thought it was a turtle, but when they got closer they could see it was a shark. The fish, a blacktip reef shark, which was about a year old, appeared to be running out of energy.

“That's an old traditional way of fishing, because the hook was right on the block,” said Kathleen Russell, a member of the diving group that had been on its way to another dive site, the MV Ludwig, when they found the shark.

“We were in deep water, about 29 or 30 metres of water, and you normally don't see a shark on the surface in the middle of the water,” said Ms Russell, who owns Al Mahara Dive Centre.

“It wasn’t able to dive down, and when it did come down a bit, it came back up again. It was dragging the block the whole time.”

She turned the shark over to induce tonic immobility, a hypnosis-like state, before another diver with gloves removed the hook.

“We wanted to at least cut the foam. But we were able to completely take the hook out, which was great. We were very lucky,” Ms Russell said.

“We didn’t see any blood or anything.”

They then turned the shark over and it swam away.

“It was quite special for us as divers in the community,” Ms Russell said.

“In all the years I have done this, I have never jumped in and taken a hook off a shark.

“It would have died if we hadn’t. And I hope it will survive now. It did swim away properly and cautiously. But I think it was probably really exhausted.”

Blacktip reef sharks are among the most common sharks inhabiting the tropical coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Described as timid and skittish they do not pose a danger to people, but have been known to mistakenly bite those wading through shallow water.

They are relatively common but classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Updated: July 12th 2021, 8:31 AM
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