Mission Blue partners at Conservation International have played a part in the discovery of a new species of Epaulette Shark, or Walking Shark (Hemiscyllium Halmahera.) Discovered in Halmahera in north eastern Indonesia, this will be the ninth recognized species of walking shark in the world.
These are relatively small sharks with the largest only reaching 121 cm (48 in) in adult body length. Instead of swimming, these sharks “walk” along the ocean floor by wriggling their bodies and using their small paddle-like pelvic and pectoral fins to push themselves forward across the ocean floor. It will only swim if being pursued by a predator, and even then, not for long.
The good news is, according to Dr. Mark Erdmann, the local government and emerging dive tourism industry is excited to promote its newly-named endemic species. “Within the (Indonesian) government, there is a growing awareness of the important ecological role that sharks play in maintaining healthy fish stocks, as well as the incredible economic potential of shark and manta-focused marine tourism.
A recent study of global manta tourism conducted by the NGOs WildAid, Shark Savers and Manta Trust showed that Indonesia ranks second globally as a manta tourism destination, with an estimated direct economic benefit of over US$ 15 million to the Indonesian economy annually.”