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Three sharks have been caught in fishing nets over the past few days off the coast of Ashdod. According to Ashdod fisherman Patrick Jano, his crew pulled one aboard their vessel recently that had been caught by its teeth in their net. It was five meters long and weighed hundreds of kilograms.

"It thrashed around so much, they were afraid its tail would knock them into the sea," Jano said. Because of its size and weight, the crew said they had to tow it into the Ashdod Marina. "They cut its belly open and found a small dolphin inside," Jano said.

The fishermen cut the shark up and passed the pieces on to their colleagues from Gaza, since they said there is no demand for shark meat in Israel.

In recent years, especially in spring, sightings increase of schools of sharks off Ashdod and Ashkelon, as the sharks seek out the warm water emerging from the power stations at these two cities.

The Ashdod municipality, familiar with the shark presence, has said there is no need for concern, as the sharks are not aggressive. Experts also explained that the chances of a human being attacked by a shark in these waters is low.

Dr. Avi Baranes, from the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, confirmed yesterday that the species of sharks that frequent the waters off the southern coast of Israel are not dangerous. "All sharks are carnivorous, but we are not on their usual menu," he said.

Baranes said most of the sharks that approach the shore are females during spawning season, which begins now and continues into June. "During this period, the females don't eat at all. They approach the shore to get their pups away from larger sharks, which may prey on them."

Of the 80 to 90 species of shark in the Mediterranean, nine are types of hammerhead shark, which, although they can reach five meters in length and despite the wide head that gives them their name, actually have a small mouth, Baranes said.

White sharks of the "Jaws" variety do exist in the Mediterranean, Baranes said, they usually stay away from the shore. "If they are not bothered, they won't attack anyone and are not dangerous. The fishermen would do well to take this under advisement," he said.

Still, Baranes notes that in 1946 a British police officer was attacked by a white shark off the coast of Tel Aviv.