Protected Hammerhead Shark Found Butchered In Florida Bay

A group of kayakers recently found a protected hammerhead shark in a Florida bay, yet the deceased animal had been mutilated, butchered, and left to rot.

Tim Martell was kayaking in Estero Bay when he came upon the remains of the hammerhead shark, according to NBC 2. Though Martell has seen sharks and other sea life killed by humans in the past, he said he was in shock, unable to believe that someone would so badly mutilate the dead shark.

“I’ve seen sharks killed by people [and] sting rays killed by people. But I must say, the one we found today with this hammerhead shark is the worst of them all,” he noted.

Only the shark’s jaw had been removed, while the unknown assailants left the rest of the body to rot. Shark jaws can be a highly prized souvenir, and while a black market for them does exist, killing a hammerhead simply to remove them is no simple matter, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Officer Stuart Spoede.

“It’s a criminal offense to possess a hammerhead shark of that species,” he observed. “When they’re catching them and cutting out their mouth just to hang some jaws on the wall, it’s a waste and a criminal offense.”

Though there are nine distinct species of hammerhead shark in the world, most are small and pose little threat to humans, as National Geographic points out. Several of the species are listed as either vulnerable or endangered, and hammerheads remain a protected animal in many parts of the world.

Often, sharks have more to fear from humans than the inverse, despite their reputation. Earlier this year, several sharks were discovered in Florida, having been killed and left on beaches. One of those sharks was a hammerhead, as the Inquisitr previously reported, and its fins had been removed, while the rest of the shark was left to rot. Shark fins are another highly prized part of the animals’ bodies, commanding exorbitant prices in some locales, though their trade has recently been regulated in some parts of the United States.

Apex predators, sharks are crucial to the oceans’ ecosystem, keeping other fish populations in balance. Marine biologist Eric Brush, while addressing the hammerhead found in Estero Bay, noted that sharks keep the population of stingrays off Florida in check. An increase in stingrays would have a cascading effect on other local fish, he noted.

“These animals, whether you like them or not, are playing a vital role in the well-being of our ecosystem. Without sharks, we start to have a lot of problems.”

There is no word yet on whether authorities in Florida have any leads regarding the dead hammerhead shark in Estero Bay.

[Photo via NBC 2]