Shark Sightings

In deeper water, Gajić has come upon rough sharks and lanternsharks. He doesn’t need his camera light to see lanternsharks. They glow! The light comes from many small organs called photophores, which dot their bellies and sides.

Gajić’s interactions with rays and skates are a little less tricky than with sharks.

He’s able to get closer to rays, including stingrays, eagle rays, and leopard whiprays, as he studies them.

For Gajić, it is a dream come true to be among these animals. He grew up in the country of Yugoslavia and never lived near the ocean. Yet, he was fascinated by the sea and what lived in it. Especially sharks. He was inspired by National Geographic magazine. He vowed that he would one day swim with sharks.

researching unborn smoothhound sharks

Gajić examines a deep-water rough shark in the lab. 

Dangerous Waters

As much as he loves sharks, Gajić knows that they are in trouble in the Adriatic. Pollution is causing illnesses in many marine animals. Plastics, pesticides, and waste poison the sea. Though Neum is a popular vacation spot, much of its sewage flows into the sea. This becomes hazardous.

Outwardly, a marine animal might seem healthy. To know for certain, however, Gajić must put on his white lab coat. In
the lab, he must examine shark organs and tissue.
Only then can he see what’s really happening.

Under the Microscope

Gajić rarely collects samples from live sharks. Instead, a tissue sample is taken from an already-dead shark. These come in the form of bycatchwhen a shark is accidentally caught in a fisher’s net and killed. When a shark is killed by mistake, local fishers give the sharks to Gajić.

In the lab, each specimen is given a full x‑ray and a scan so Gajić can see inside the animal. Tissue samples are taken. From these samples, Gajić can learn a lot.

In one shark, he found the disease hepatitis. That’s a disease of the liver. It might be caused by high amounts
of heavy metals in the water.
In other sharks, he found disease in both kidney and brain tissue. Pollution made these sharks sick.

This sevengill shark was bycatch off the coast of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.