THE much misunderstood white shark was in the spotlight yesterday when the Palma Aquarium announced the showing of a factual documentary tracking the passage of this threatened species through the waters of the Balearic Islands.

Director and producer, Juan Andrés Ruiz has earmarked next Thursday, 8th November at 8.30pm as an opportunity to present a choice selection of audiovisual material - viewing will be by invitation only - on the personal unedited testimonies of fishermen and experts. “Majorca: In search of the Great White Shark” was the title of the presentation given yesterday, attended by Biel Morey, a regional government Fisheries department shark expert; Pollensa fisherman Pep Borrás; Debora Morrison, head of the Education department at the Aquarium; and Roman Grädel, director of Biology at Coral World.

During the presentation, the jawbone of a great white shark captured off the coast of Majorca in 1965 was put on display for the first time. The spectacular array of teeth, now the property of a well-known Island fishery was an emblem of a creature, which - for many of us - remains as a backdrop to our worst nightmares. Several highlights from the documentary were shown which catalogues the capture of no less than thirty “great whites” in Balearic waters between 1930 and 1970. Some of the sharks were more than six metres in length.

The 45-minute documentary explains that the majority of occasions on which this species has been caught in the region relate to accidental trapping in tunny nets off Cap Regana, Port de Soller, Cala Murta, Cap Ferrutx and Ses Caletes de Cap Pinar.

According to Ruiz, “the idea of the video is not to frighten people.” It's more about giving information on the rich tapestry of marine life which frequents the Balearics including rarer species such as the great white shark and the monk seal which is now no longer seen here. Whales and sword fish are, however, still “on the agenda”. Importantly, said Ruiz, misinformation about the great white shark means that the public at large, fuelled by sensationalist films such as “Jaws,” fail to realise just how crucial this top predator is to the delicate balance of our marine eco-system.

As the documentary shows, sightings and confrontation with the great white in the waters around Majorca were not uncommon in the 1960s. Nowadays, scientists and experts continue to follow its trail, not always with success. Mass trawling has taken its toll on the creature but it is also a cold water fish - Ruiz comments: “In winter there are less people in the sea and therefore less sightings.” Added to these factors is the reduction in traditional tunny fishing which in the past has been an “accidental” method of trapping these rare, grossly underestimated creatures.


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