A small crowed watched aghast as a deck hand from a charter fishing boat, “Phoenix,” removed 34 dead baby sharks from the corpse of a pregnant 13.6-foot, 835-pound (379 kg) hammerhead mother shark. The shark was caught during a fishing expedition and brought to shore in Harborwalk, Destin, Florida on June 5, 2015.
The clip, taken earlier this month by Jeff Bratcher of Yukon, Okla., and posted to YouTube, shows a deck hand cutting open the dead shark’s belly, removing and throwing her dead pups in a bucket. A woman counts 34 pups as they are pulled out from their mother’s body.
Bratcher, who was vacationing in Florida, was taking a walk in Harborwalk village, Destin, Fla., when he came upon the scene near AJ’s restaurant and Margaritaville.
He posted the video to YouTube on June 8, 2015 and it has since gone viral with more than 350,000 views. He posted a ten-second clip showing the same scene from a different angle on June 16 (see below).
He told AL.com that the 830-pound shark appeared to have a hole in her body that could have been caused by a bullet or a spear, and its fins had been cut off.
“My oldest son, he said ‘Dad, this is wrong,’ and I said I didn’t know what was endangered or what wasn’t. We’re from Oklahoma, all we know about is catching catfish. I was just in awe, but the more I got to think about it, I thought ‘this ain’t right.'”
“You hear me ask on the video ‘What are you going to do with these?’ He would never answer, he was just throwing (the pups) in the trash can.”
Bratcher said he has received messages from all over world, from people expressing concern about the incident and asking that he pull down the video.
“I have people telling me to take the video off, but we need to let people know what it is,” he said.
Great hammerheads (Sphyrna mokarran) are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) “Red List,” but they are not protected by U.S. government under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), AL.com reports.
Experts say that the assessing the level of threat to the species is difficult because they are solitary; and enacting laws for their protection is complicated because they migrate over large distances.
According to AL.com, several conservation groups have lobbied to have hammerheads protected under ESA, but a petition was denied last year. But Florida law prohibits fishermen catching the shark in state waters, and if they die on the line they must be returned to the water.
The charter boat posted photos of the dead shark to its Facebook page with a message explaining the circumstances. But the post was soon deleted after several negative comments from Facebook users.
But according to the Facebook post, the shark was caught in international waters, more than nine miles from shore, and died before they could return it to the water.
“We would have released it, but the shark died during the long battle.”
Marine experts say that hammerhead sharks are very sensitive to stress and more likely than other shark species to die before they are released back to the water when caught.
Female hammerheads give birth to litters of 6 to 42 pups about once every two years. On the average, females are larger than males and individuals have a lifespan of up to 40 years.
Hammerheads are not usually used for food in the U.S., but the fins are in high demand for making shark fin soup. The viewer will notice that the fins have been removed from the hammerhead shown in the video.
Although some states in the U.S. prohibit trade in shark fins, it is legal in Florida.
[Image: Wikipedia Commons/Albert Kok]