With Israel’s seas are relatively empty these days due to coronavirus restrictions, dozens of sharks have made a rare appearance along its southern shoreline, according to researchers at University of Haifa.

Researchers at the University’s Morris Kahn Marine Research Station spotted dozens of sandbar sharks along the Ashdod coast last week, despite their designation as a “vulnerable” species declining in population. This revelation comes on the heels of finding several sharks along the shores of Hadera a few months ago, prompting researchers to suspect that Israel’s coastline may very well be an oasis for these creatures.

“Dozens of sharks have gravitated toward the warmer water near Hadera’s power plant, causing this spotting. This current sighting of sandbar sharks has occurred in several places around the world, but it is rare to see them in the Mediterranean,” said marine biologist Aviad Sheinin, also the top predator project manager at University of Haifa. “It seems that while most of the Mediterranean sharks are in danger of extinction, our beaches are exceptionally friendly to them.”

Over the course of five years, university students have been heavily invested in researching the return of these dusty sharks to the Hadera power plant. Their research involves tagging and tracking their living patterns, marking the first time work of this nature has been conducted in Israel.

While the existence of sharks in the Ashdod port area is well-known, there hasn’t been a comprehensive in-depth study about their activity.

“We were delighted to see groups of dozens of sharks, which we identified as sandbar sharks. They’re an endangered species in the Mediterranean, so it was exciting for us to see such a large group here with us,” said Sheinin.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the university’s research has been put on hold for the past two months. This has prevented researchers from properly tagging and tracking the sharks; in the meantime, they’ve secured a receiver that can identify whether the Ashdod simply migrated down from Hadera.

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