Animal Conservation

11ft hammerhead shark washes up on Florida beach

South Florida beachgoers were greeted by an eerie scene earlier this month when an 11-foot hammerhead shark was discovered washed up on shore in the early hours of the morning, Local 10 News reported.

The female shark’s corpse was found at Pompano Beach, located just north of Fort Lauderdale, on April 6, the news station reported.

Reactions gathered from witnesses on the beach who were unfortunate enough to stumble upon the scene featured a mix of emotions, with some feeling amazed while others mourned the death of the large animal.

“You never want to see an animal that big lying on the beach,” local resident Kevin Nosal told Local 10 News. “It’s 11 feet long and over 500 pounds. She’s a female, so it’s always sad when a female dies.

Great hammerhead sharks were listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered in 2019, a decision prompted by the steep decline the species has suffered in recent years due to a combination of infrequent breeding (about once every two years), fin trade and their fragility after being caught and released.

A team of scientists from the American Shark Conservancy who arrived to take samples from the stranded hammerhead shark told the local news station they were first alerted to the animal’s presence after receiving a call from the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, which noted a checkmark. in the creature’s mouth.

The “specific type of hook usually indicates someone was fishing for a large animal like a hammerhead shark,” said Hannah Medd, founder of the American Shark Conservancy, before adding that hammerhead sharks are “quite sensitive to stress” after being caught by anglers, even when released.

Catching and releasing hammerhead sharks is legal in Florida, she noted, as long as the shark is not caught. The stress of the event, however, can lead to a fatal reaction.

“It’s a pretty rare occurrence,” Ms Medd said. “We get an appeal for maybe one to four a year that have been rejected.”

An 11-foot hammerhead shark stranded is seen on the shores of Pompano Beach, Florida on April 6. (Local 10 News/Screenshot)

The group continues to advocate for better catch-and-release protocols, but because the creature is “really good at fighting,” it can serve as bait for thrill-seeking anglers seeking to challenge themselves.

Some of these best practices would actually reduce this supposedly exciting “battle time”, such as equipping boats with stronger lures and hooks. This, Ms Medd told the outlet, would reduce the risk of injury and death to the species.

After American Shark Conservancy scientists were able to collect their samples from the shark, which was done discreetly after the female was removed from direct sight of swimmers, a construction crew dug a hole and buried the creature.

It was later confirmed, based on the team’s assessment, that the hammerhead shark weighed 500 pounds and was pregnant.

A recent study found that despite their dwindling numbers, great hammerhead sharks are the fifth most common shark species in South Florida, with the most common being the nurse shark, followed by the blacktip, lemon and then bull shark. .

“They are globally endangered,” wrote Neil Hammerschlag, associate research professor at the University of Miami and co-author of the study. “They have suffered very large declines. But off Miami, it is one of the most common species.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, some hammerhead sharks can grow up to 18 feet in length and, in some cases, can live for over 20 years, as long as they are not targeted by commercial fishing groups for their fins.

In the United States, the sale of fins is banned in 14 states, including California, New York, Hawaii, and Florida, but state-level bans do not prohibit the import of shark products caught in the United States. foreigner in the country.