Florida angler catches (and likely kills) Endangered great hammerhead shark


Image taken from the South Florida shark fishing club online forum. Photographer undisclosed. I have blocked out the angler's face to protect his identity

Update: The angler who originally caught the shark has responded. Please see below.

On February 5th, while standing on a beach in Miami,  a fisherman caught a 14 foot great hammerhead shark. According to his account, “we had it beached within an hour of hooking it. The fish weighed too much her girth was huge. Just the 2 of us wasn’t enough to get it out of the water….We snapped some pictures with our dying camera, measured it at 170 inches and spent the next hour walking back and forth with HER reviving her…it swam off slow and steady”

While this might appear to be a simple case of catch-and-release recreational fishing, it is not. My lab and I are  supporters of sustainable catch and release fishing.  However, it is important to note that since January 1, 2012, great hammerheads (an IUCN Red List Endangered species) have been a protected species in Florida state waters and have additional legal protections. The Florida code indicates that:

“(1) No person shall harvest, possess, land, purchase, sell, or exchange any or any part of these species:
…(k) Great hammerhead – Sphyrna mokarran.

…(3) “Harvest” means the catching or taking of a marine organism by any means whatsoever, followed by a reduction of such organism to possession. Marine organisms that are caught but immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed are not harvested”

…(5) “Land,” when used in connection with the harvest of marine organisms, means the physical act of bringing the harvested organism ashore”  Florida code section 68B-44  (Emphasis mine)

In this incident, the shark was brought ashore. We can infer from the statement “the fish weighed too much her girth was huge. Just the 2 of us wasn’t enough to get it out of the water” that the fisherman attempted to pull it all the way out of the water, but was unable to do so (an important legal distinction) . Instead, he ended up beaching it, bringing it so far out that it could not move or breathe. The angler did not immediately release the animal. According to the angler’s account, it was measured and photographed prior to the attempt to resuscitate it. The shark was not released alive and unharmed. By the angler’s own admission, it took over an hour of resuscitation before the animal was able to even swim away slowly.

As Mike points out, there is a bit of ambiguity in this law concerning the words “landed” and “immediately”. Fortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has a best practices guide  that clarifies the laws. Though it only references tarpon and grouper, I have been assured by colleagues at the FWC that it is broadly applicable to all saltwater fishes.

“Fish must be immediately released for several reasons. For example, there is no allowable harvest of goliath grouper and Nassau grouper in Florida…..When a fish isn’t allowed to be harvested, it must immediately be returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed. However, if a fish is allowed to be taken at a certain size limit, it’s okay to temporarily possess it to measure it, as long as it is measured immediately after removing it from the water, and the fish is then immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed if it is not a legal-size fish….It is okay to take a picture of a fish that is not allowed to be harvested while it’s in the process of being released, but it still must be let go immediately and should not be held in lengthy poses just for the purpose of taking the picture. And it is never legal to hold on to or tow a fish that is not allowed to be harvested to a place to weigh or measure it ” FWC Saltwater fish best practices guide. (emphasis mine)

It is not legal to hold on to a fish that’s not allowed to be harvested just to measure it, which is what happened in this case according to the angler’s account. It is legal to photograph a restricted species as it is being released, which should occur immediately, but it is not legal to hold onto it just to photograph it. The photos show the angler posing with his catch, not the process of releasing it.

A call for leniency

As Chuck Bangley points out, “a surf fisherman caught a large, endangered, legally protected shark but also followed the best release practices he was aware of and showed some respect for the animal…. [he] seems to rather like the fish he’s angling, and therefore not a big part of the problem with hammerhead conservation. This particular fisherman likely made an honest mistake and, while the violation of the law certainly needs to be addressed, I hope they don’t come down too hard on [him].”

Bangley makes a good point- the angler made a good faith effort to release the animal unharmed. Personally, I’m more interested in using this incident as a teaching opportunity to promote more sustainable fishing practices for the future than in demonizing a young fishermen who wasn’t aware of the current laws and followed the best practices of which he was aware.

In the first eleven pages of comments on the South Florida shark fishing club online forum about this hammerhead, no one pointed out that the great hammerhead is a protected species in Florida waters. Clearly, more education about this issue is needed.

Samantha Whitcraft of Shark Savers, an organization that helped get the new FWC hammerhead protections passed, agrees. “From what we understand from this particular case, the fishermen ‘tried’ to execute a live catch & release; unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the shark survived but it does mean there is potential for education on how to do it better, especially given that the new FWC rule that protects hammerheads in Florida waters calls for education on this very subject.”

A teachable moment

Great hammerhead sharks are listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. They’ve suffered an estimated 80% population decline in the last 25 years. Their populations simply cannot sustain heavy fishing pressure. Large females, such as the one caught in this incident, are particularly critical if the population of great hammerheads is to recover,” said Dr. Neil Hammerschlag* , the Director of the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.

According to Austin Gallagher*, a Ph.D. student in the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, “catch and release fishing relies upon the assumption that the captured fish survives when it is released.” Gallagher, a supporter of sustainable catch and release fishing who writes a column for Coastal Angler magazine, recently concluded a two year project focusing on how local species of sharks (including great hammerheads) respond to the stress of fishing and “fighting” a fisherman.

In his professional opinion, this great hammerhead shark did not survive this encounter. Gallagher said “You can tell that the animal is very rigid–almost like a rigor mortis.  Hammerheads almost always stiffen up when they are dead or dying (moribund). The fact that it is listing to its side and rigid corroborates this. An animal can still swim away and die afterwards. We have seen this as well by using certain telemetry devices such as satellite transmitters that record post-release behavior….Walking an animal for a long period of time is indicative of the physiological consequences of stress. You may be able to get an animal swimming for a brief moment, but it certainly does not guarantee survival. This is a massive animal–the metabolic demands for even for basic swimming of a super predator are large, let alone after being angled and brought to shore for an extended period of time.”

According to Gallagher, “species, not individuals, show the most obvious differences with how they respond to stress. Hammerheads fight so rigorously that they become exhausted, their blood becomes acidic and loaded with carbon dioxide. Our data shows that this acts like a lethal cocktail for the animal.The hammerhead reacts so strongly to being hooked that the exercise of fighting becomes too much for the animal’s body to take. In this sense, the fight becomes anaerobic–fighting without proper oxygen. Hammerheads have very small mouths, which limits the amount of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release. At the same time, lactic acid builds up in the blood–a by-product of anaerobic exercise. We have measured disturbing concentrations of all of these parameters in hammerheads, even after fight times of less than 20 minutes. Mortality can happen in many ways–the animal can die of exhaustion minutes, days, and weeks after a release. But the animal can also become preyed upon by another shark that notices the change in swimming speed or behavior.”

Law enforcement’s reaction

We asked Melissa Recks, the FWC regional biologist for South Florida, for an official statement regarding this incident.

“Our division of law enforcement and our legal staff have reviewed this incident, and there’s not enough information in the pictures that a clear violation has occurred. Our educational staff is working on reaching out to shark anglers to clarify the best practices for handling prohibited species to ensure their survival,” she said.

Best practices

This incident likely resulted in the death of an endangered species. Future conservation-minded anglers who wish the ensure the survival of endangered great hammerheads should be aware that these animals absolutely cannot withstand a prolonged fight or being restrained for more than a few minutes. Fighting the animal to restrain it so that the hook can be removed is worse for the animal’s survival than merely cutting the line (which should be done as close to the hook as possible to minimize the amount of the line that the shark drags).

I politely and respectfully suggested this to the South Florida shark fishing club here, and the club’s President, William Fundora, replied:

“WE HAVE FIRST HAND EXPIERIENCE OVER 4 DECADES OF PRACTICING OUR SPORT AND NOT EVERY HAMMERHEAD WILL REACT THE SAME AFTER A PROLONGED FIGHT SOME WILL NEED WALKING AND RIGHTFULLY SO UNLESS YOU SUGGEST WE LET THE SHARK SINK AND DIE WHICH WOULD NOT BE GOOD POLICY FOR ANY FISH ANYWHERE.AGAIN WHEN WE FISH WE HAVE VERY LITTLE CONTROL AS TO WHAT SPECIES OF SHARK BITES OUR BAIT.WE OFTEN CATCH OTHER PROTECTED SPECIES….WE BELIEVE AND KNOW FROM OUR EXPIERIENCE THAT THE BEST RELEASE PRACTICE IS TO WALK AN EXHAUSTED SHARK UNTIL REGAINS IT’S STRENGTH AND SWIMS AWAY…YOU WANT SHARKS TO BE CUT LOOSE TO FLOUDER TO THE BOTTOM WIRE RIG AND STRONG LINE TRAILING AND YOU CALL “latest best practices” ??THINK WHAT YOU ARE SUGGESTING HERE DAVID.”

William, what I am suggesting is based on scientific data. Anglers, even experienced and conservation-minded anglers, can’t know what happens to the sharks after is swims away, and to assume that an animal survived because it swam away is not supported by scientific data.

Scientists can (and in many cases, do) know what happens to a shark after it swims away, thanks to telemetry data and stress physiology research. After a prolonged fight, great hammerhead sharks typically do not survive for long, even if they swim away. They don’t recover from stress as well as other shark species on a physiological level.

Walking the sharks to resuscitate is slightly better than “letting them sink” (which is not at all what I, or anyone else, suggested), as this process very slightly improves their ability to survive, at least in the short term. However, it is far better not to fight them for so long that they need to be resuscitated in the first place.  As soon as you identify the animal on the other end of your line as a scalloped or great hammerhead shark, cut the line with as little line attached to the shark as possible. This will maximize the shark’s chance of survival.  Also, it’s not just me saying this. The FWC best practices guide makes the exact same point:

“Anglers should also use common sense when releasing fish. Sometimes it’s better to safely handle a fish to carefully remove the hook so it can be released, and other times it’s best to cut the line as close to the hook as possible while the fish is in the water – especially if it’s large or agitated” (emphasis mine). Note that great hammerheads are both large and agitated.

Although the angler followed the best methods he was aware of and demonstrated a good-faith effort to respect the ocean and its creatures, by not following established best practices, a rare adult female member of an endangered species almost certainly died. This is a problem in of itself, and it has the potential to become a much bigger problem if not corrected.

I have invited members of the South Florida shark fishing club, fisheries managers, conservationists, and shark scientists to discuss this incident on this blog post. We all want the same thing, we all want there to be lots of fish (including sharks) in the ocean for a long time. It is my sincere hope that this incident, rather than turning into a shouting match between conservationists and anglers, can become a point of discussion about best practices for future sustainable use of marine resources. I also hope that it will draw attention to the rarely discussed practice of land-based shark fishing.


*As regular readers know, I am also a Ph.D. student in the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program. Dr. Neil Hammerschlag is my major adviser, and Austin Gallagher is a senior graduate student in my lab. We believe that fishermen have the right to fish, but that fishing should be done in a sustainable manner. Much of our research aims to better inform anglers so that they can continue to enjoy their sport while having a smaller impact on the marine environment.


Response from the Angler who caught the shark:

I would first like to address the author of this article. It is titled “Florida angler catches (and likely kills) Endangered great hammerhead shark”
… your addition of the words within the parenthesis automatically sets in a tone of bias towards one set of views and against me which I feel slightly threatened. The pen is mightier than the sword and a great speaker has the ability to sway public opinion whether it be good or bad.

The author also states “The shark was not released alive and unharmed. By the angler’s own admission, it took over an hour of resuscitation before the animal was able to even swim away slowly.” Again there is total bias and a wave of negativity thrown upon me (an angler whom which put in vigorous efforts in the release of such a magnificent creature).

In more specific details: I wrote in a different post about the efforts it took me and my friend to release this fish. I quote myself: “That shark was an intelligent creature and more than likely older than myself. I tend to respect my elders and help them out to the best of my abilities. I could tell that this shark was aching and was trying to curl up into a C shape in order to stretch and that it was under a load of stress. Dan and I worked quickly to photograph, clip away as much of the rigging as possible, and get the shark back into the water flow. The tide was incoming so we started by walking the shark against the tide which helped the flow of water throughout its gills. We repeated a few laps of walking back and forth with the shark. Our backs were severely aching from the sheer weight of this fish. Dan reminded me that from the extensive fight the shark had probably built up a ton of lactic acid within its muscles; so the second part of my plan was to get those muscles moving as best as I could, I held the shark by the hammer-like structure being careful not to poke it in the eye and I swayed its head back and forth, un-stiffening muscles and getting even more water flowing throughout the gills. Dan was responsibly swaying its tail and tail-end of the sharks body to also help release lactic acid and stiffness. The shark broke free from us 3-times but we quickly retrieved it and continued the walking process because I did not feel the animal was strong enough to survive at the moment. We ran into several spotted eagle rays and southern stingrays in the process (one of which I came within inches of stepping on… so please don’t tell me this process was not harmful to me.)”

Commenting on this remark: “It is not legal to hold on to a fish that’s not allowed to be harvested just to measure it, which is what happened in this case according to the angler’s account.” Of course I wanted a picture because that is my passion (to catch, photograph, and release big fish) and of course I measured it and did so speedily. There is nothing illegal about measuring a fish, please read the laws on harvesting snook, snapper, grouper, and other such fish which must be measured and is encouraged to send in data to the FWC for their studies. Also scientists that catch, tag, and release sharks “hold on to a fish that’s not allowed to be harvested” and they do measure it.

In “A call for leniency” I thank the author and Chuck Bangley for the needed support and seeing the situations more or less in my own shoes.

In “A teachable moment” I would like to say and think that I am not the heavy fishing pressure on the hammerhead population, I have only caught one in my entire life and I ensured its survival. I hope this “heavy fishing pressure” is referring to the legal and illegal long-line fishermen and I hope that that shady business can be ended completely.

To Austin Gallagher: You have made an educated response based upon the best of your knowledge and it is true that this fish was under a high level of stress, but I would like to point out that your statement about “Hammerheads have very small mouths, which limits the amount of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release” is not entirely accurate because most sharks do not actually use their mouths for breathing because they can get their oxygen with their mouths closed. Sharks flush water over their gills which is on the externals of the shark so the size of their mouth has little to nothing to do with their ability to breath.

Towards the people who have commented on this blog, I see different sides and I thank the people that understood that I am trying to conserve sharks and protect shark fishing rights and I tried my best and I am completely positive that that shark is swimming around at this very moment. To the other people who commented completely against me, that is your opinion but I believe your opinion may have changed if you were there to witness my situation and I hope that you could make the same decisions as I did rather than cutting the line, many yards away when we realized it was a hammerhead which was exhausted and in shallow water and probably would have had no chance of swimming away on its own, I chose to take the extra 5-10 minutes to bring this shark close enough to get as much of my rigging off of this shark without harming it and getting it into the current and assisting it in swimming, breathing, and relieving it of lactic acid build up so it had the chance to make a full recovery and break free from my iron grip and swim off steadily with what I believed was the certainty of its survival.

  1. Thanks for sharing this informative piece. While I certainly agree with the premise of the article that all attempts should be made to quickly release protected species such as hammerhead sharks (as well as other catch and release species), I didn’t find the explanation for an alternative method of handling this situation very satisfactory. What should the angler have done? Should he have walked out into knee-deep, thigh deep, chest deep water to cut the line as close to the hook as possible? Wouldn’t he have endangered himself in the process? Also, if he had cut the line with 10-30 or more feet of trailing line, would that have been better than hauling it into shallow water and completely removing the hook? How close should he have gotten to the shark before cutting the line? I believe a bit more explanation is needed if we want people to employ best practices for catch and release shark fishing in the future. I’m not trying to shoot down the premise of the article, just searching for the obvious need for more information and guidance.

    • Fighting a great hammerhead shark for this long is significantly worse for it’s long-term survival than having it swim away after a few minutes of fight with a long bit of line attached. You should try to minimize the amount of line dragged as much as possible, but fighting a great hammerhead for this long almost guarantees that it will die.

  2. I think part of the problem, and certainly the motivation behind William’s rather dismissive (and, frankly, arrogant) response is that anglers exclusively interact with fish at the extremes of their behavior. They’re handling sharks after long fights, pulling them up to the surface, and causing difficult-to-quantify impacts on their physiology. When fish are caught, fought, and brought out of the water, all the behaviors that follow are profoundly abnormal, yet if this is your only interaction with fish, you would think that these are completely normal. It’s like creating a baseline for human society based exclusively on interviews with people who think they’ve been abducted by aliens.

    The fact is that scientists who study sharks, even graduate students, have spent far more time observing sharks under natural conditions, and do, in fact, have a better grasp of what is normal shark behavior, what is stressed shark behavior, and what behavior indicates a shark is on the verge of death.

  3. Chris, The angler knew they had a hammerhead on the line when it crested 50 yards out. At that point he should have immediately cut the line. Or better yet pick a shark enthusiast hobby that doesn’t involve stressing them to near death. While others may be kinder on the subject. I am not. The cro-magnon desires satiated by the mock/trophy hunting of an animal garners only disdain from me.

  4. Thanks for starting this timely dialogue. It’s important to note that, while great and scalloped hammerhead sharks have been classified as Endangered by IUCN, these species are not (yet) listed under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). The federal government is currently considering an ESA listing petition for the scalloped hammerhead. At the same time, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is developing over the coming months options under the federal Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) management plan to better protect hammerheads taken in coastal fisheries (NMFS recently prohibited Atlantic pelagic fishermen from retaining hammerheads, as a result of action by the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas). Hammerheads’ tendency to get stressed and die exceptionally quickly after capture poses special conservation challenges, as prohibitions alone will likely not amount to sufficient protection. Research into means for maximizing hammerhead post release survival is critical to hammerhead conservation efforts in the US and elsewhere. The HMS management process offers regular opportunities for input from concerned stakeholders. Please share findings and ideas with the HMS advisory panel this year as we try to help NMFS focus on and finalize new, effective hammerhead safeguards.

  5. One of the biggest problems I have with angling for sharks (and I’ve been fishing since my second birthday), is that many anglers don’t have a good enough understanding of shark physiology to determine best practices for the species. The first step in my mind is always education: even the basics into stress-induced anaerobic fighting.

    One thing that bothers me is seeing the anglers standing next to a live hammerhead and clearly stopping what they were doing for pictures. Hammerheads do not have a spiracle, so like bony fish and some shark species (nurse sharks, bamboo sharks) cannot breathe without moving. By stopping for photos, they were essentially suffocating the shark after forcing excess CO2 into its blood with anaerobic fighting.

    I agree that the line should have been cut, but in the case where the line doesn’t get cut, promoting a quick aerobic recovery for these sharks will help preserve the species much better than bringing it to the brink of death and expecting it to be able to recover after being released.

    Chris, hammerheads are one of the most docile large species or sharks. They have very small mouths, and possess very little danger to humans.

  6. The angler caught the fish on a hook. How could he know an endangered shark would take his bait? After the fact, he acted in the best way he knew.

  7. Ron, anytime someone goes fishing, it is important to know not only what is likely to take your bait, but the best way to respond when they do: that includes simple things like limits (both in fish size and quantity), release procedures, and which species are protected. It is the anglers responsibility to know this information, and as these anglers knew what was on their line from 50 yards out, it was clear that there was plenty of time to focus on best practices.

  8. If this were a panda, anyone who messed with it would risk execution at the hands of the state (of China). This strong and drastic stance by the govt made for a quickly navigated learning curve for all would-be Chinese poachers. Perhaps this is why pandas are the only remaining native bear species in the country and are virtually untouched by the bear bile industry, of which China is the world’s most voracious consumer.

    Now, I am not saying our Florida fisherfriends should suffer the same fate. But I would advocate a stricter tough-love approach. The IUCN has spoken; this fish needs to be protected from those who might harm it, however well meaning.

    And BTW, I’m not much for BBQ.

  9. Southern Fried Science,

    I am proudly involved with the SFSC and have met this angler personally on a few occasions. He has spent MANY hours shark fishing and knows the limit of these fish quite well. He has probably spent more time with these fish than most of the people in this article. He never pulled it fully out of the water, and kept it in deeper water, because he knew not to hurt it. I feel that this very smart, deserving, and experienced young angler was portrayed very wrong here.

    You also left out that while he was reviving the fish, he was moving the muscles of the fish to relieve it of lactic acid. This is a very common thing to do, whether its a little snook or a 14′ hammer. Many boats in big-money marlin tournaments do this on their trophy marlin.

    Yet another factor in this is that the shark did not fight very hard for being as big as it was. Fighting only for an hour isn’t very long, compared to many other battles with these fish. People have fought fish for hours on end, just to break the line. The angler said it stripped off 400yds. of line, that is almost nothing for one of these fish. On more then one occasion, these fish have taken 6, or 700yds. of line, under more drag. So, this fish wasn’t in too bad of a condition after a relatively short fight.

    Not to mention all of the countless sharks that have been caught, tagged, and released, using the same (if not worse) technique. For all of the many, many sharks that are caught off of the beach, the much greater majority of them swim off un-harmed. On more than one occasion, a fish has been caught, tagged by NMFS, released, (all from the beach) only to be caught later in near perfect physical condition.

    All in all, I think the best techniques were used in the catch, and release of this great shark, by a very experienced angler, ultimately leaving it unharmed.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for your comments. Firstly, it does no one any good to compare how much experience someone has over the next. I agree that to learn the species, it is important to spend time with them–that is why we spend over 100 years a day on the water doing research and interacting with these species. We also work with recreational fishermen throughout the keys as well. The article clearly presents both sides of the story, and does not demonize the angler at all..in fact it commends him for his efforts of revival.

      It is excellent that you make an effort to rid the animals of lactic acid and other by-products of stress. However, simply using such terms to justify stressful fishing practices is not responsible. I would be more than happy to discuss the specific physiological consequences of fishing stress with any interested parties, as it goes alot deeper than lactic acid buildup. Furthermore, you mention that this is common practice for “Many boats in big-money marlin tournaments.” This may be true for fishing from BOATS, but when angling from shore and onto shore it introduces an entirely stressors that are different (and arguably more extreme) than boat fishing.

      Fighting for an hour may not be a long time for all species, but I think you missed the point of our discussion–scientific data shows that hammerheads are highly unlikely to survive fights of over an hour. Thus, it was too long.

      Lastly, unless you follow the animal or track it with transmitters, there is absolutely no way to determine if the shark survived in the short-term after you release it. Conventional tags can be useful only if you recapture the animal. Since the 1950’s, NMFS has conventional tagged over 200,000 sharks and the average recapture rate ranges from 1-10%. This is not a significant number to make any claims of survival.

      The angler may have been experienced–our goal is that all can learn from this event and increase their knowledge. After all, we want to be able to see them for years to come.

    • Hey Austin – perhaps you could post a graph of some of the data showing the effect of stress on large hammerheads. As I posted in my comment, simply stating it as true can be off putting to some people (think the global climate change debate). Obviously in our field we know where to go to find the latest research and data, and we actively seek it. The average person does not always know where/when to look for it. Of course I am not trying to bash you here, rather just suggesting a way that might make the point a bit more clear/easy to understand.

      As an aside, perhaps it would be possible (and you may already be addressing this) to try to work and get some SPOT tags (or even a less expensive sat tag) on a few hammers caught from shore?

    • Kevin, thank you for commenting- I am pleased that members of the SFSFC have joined in the discussion.

      ” He never pulled it fully out of the water, and kept it in deeper water, because he knew not to hurt it”

      The angler’s good intentions were never in doubt here, but the photos clearly show the animal in extremely shallow water.

      “Yet another factor in this is that the shark did not fight very hard for being as big as it was. Fighting only for an hour isn’t very long, compared to many other battles with these fish. People have fought fish for hours on end”

      Different species react differently. Austin’s data shows that after fights as short as 20 minutes, however, great hammerheads are so highly stressed that they can (and often do) die. This fight was much longer than 20 minutes, and the shark’s behavior, as described by the angler and shown in the photos, is consistent with a great hammerhead on the brink of death from stress and exhaustion.

      “All in all, I think the best techniques were used in the catch, and release of this great shark… ultimately leaving it unharmed.”

      The FWC best practices guide disagrees with your assessment, and our data supports the best practices guide. In Austin’s expert opinion, based on years of working on the specific research question of “how does fighting fishing gear affect the survival of an animal”, this great hammerhead did not survive.

  10. I have to second what Sonya said. Although Great Hammerheads are listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, here in the US they have not been afforded that protection (YET). As someone that does research on sharks seeing this is not easy, but as a fisherman I also can relate to some extent. Obviously, the idea of catch and release works in theory for all species, but for many species it is not easy…in particular, many shark species.

    As an angler, I know that I can not predict (though I have an idea given the type of fishing I am doing) what will bite the hook when I cast/drop my line (with a few exceptions, like sight-fishing). But as an angler, I also am aware that when I fish there is the chance I could catch a species I can not keep/havest/land etc. and I make sure that I am prepared and ready to deal with that when it occurs. Without having met the fisherman that caught this shark, I do believe that angler was not purposely trying to cause harm to the shark. The fishing club has been doing this for a while, and they are quite confident in their techniques.

    From a scientists view point though, it seems that even though the angler took care to minimize harm, that he could have done more. This is where education comes in on our part. We need to help anglers to adapt their techniques and learn how to adjust them as needed. Just saying that they didn’t do enough, or could have done more is not enough. Also, pointing out that research shows these animals don’t respond well is not enough…we should present the information for them to see, and if possible demonstrate this. As scientists, we don’t just accept it when others say “oh well research shows,” we want to see the results for ourselves (hence the whole peer-reviewed journal process, conferences, etc.). And we should do this in a way that does not turn off the lay-person to the research. Too often we see people doubting science because it is not explained well, or they think it is being forced on them, so this should be taken into account.

    As more regulations keep changing, we need to work to educate the public on these changes. Not only to help them learn how they can change with them, but also to help them understand the regulations. We also can’t let these rare instances like this taint our view of those anglers that do their part and we can’t let this cause knee jerk reactions to propose crazy regulations either (i.e. the proposed, but thankfully not accepted, total area closure to protect red snapper Ammendment 17A).

  11. I’m a land based fisherman. I’ve been fishing in Palm Beach County for 19 years. My family has been fishing here in Florida since the 1800’s. I respect the ocean and structures I fish off of like they were part of my family. I always leave the area where I fish cleaner than it was when I got there. I always bring a bucket or 35 gallon trash bag and fill it with trash before I leave the area I’m fishing. I’ve saved hundreds of baby turtles trapped in rocks at low tide getting beat up in the rocks. Anything to help out the ocean. I want my children to be able to enjoy the ocean as much as I have growing up in South Florida. If I am fishing and clearly see it is a protected fish that is in coming close to my bait. I reel my bait in to prevent from hooking the fish. Sometimes it is too rough and dirty water and you cannot always prevent this. But getting the hook out and reviving the fish is sometimes necessary to make sure the fish swims off fine. Sometimes this can take up to an hour to see a large fish swim off. Being a land based fisherman and taking the time to revive the fish can put yourself in extreme danger and risky situations. I’ve risked my life reviving fish in chest high dirty rough water just to know I did everything I could to revive the fish so it could swim off strong. I tell all my friends to do the same thing. It’s a huge risk having a family and caring about a fish this way. I watched my father and grandfather do this and I’ve been practicing the same methods that they have showed me, and it has worked for the last hundred years. I know the fisherman that caught this shark did everything they posibly could do, including risking his life to ensure this shark swam off strong. I wish the best for both sides and hope everyone gets along. I love the ocean it’s a huge part of my live and childrens life. I will always be practicing safe and smart fishing to educate friends,family and the public.
    I would love to see both sides working togeather.
    I would purchase tracking tags every year to track different types of fish. This would help out to see the migration of fish during the years.
    Working togeather would help educate everyone on the fish in our ocean.
    Thanks,
    JimmyLevelWind

    • Thanks for your comment, Jimmy. I am glad to see a stated desire on both sides to work together for the benefit of the animals we all care about.

      No one doubts your desire (and that of Mark) to see the sharks you catch swim off safely.

      “But getting the hook out and reviving the fish is sometimes necessary to make sure the fish swims off fine…”

      It isn’t necessary to revive the fish if you don’t stress it out so much that it needs to be revived. The FWC best practices guide clearly states that cutting the line before a prolonged fight is the best option for certain species.

      ” I watched my father and grandfather do this and I’ve been practicing the same methods that they have showed me, and it has worked for the last hundred years”

      It’s really great that such a strong passion for the ocean has been passed down in your family (in my case, it skipped a generation from my grandfather to me). However, just because a certain method is commonly used doesn’t mean it’s the best method. The point that we’ve been making is that after a shark swims away, an angler has no way of telling if it survived (unless it is marked and recaptured, which hardly ever happens), even if that angler is extremely experienced and cares a great deal about the ocean. Austin’s research clearly shows that great hammerhead sharks can (and often do) die from stress and exhaustion even after they swim away.

  12. Well said Jimmy. I was there on the day this fish was caught and I can assure all those who are casting doubt on the way that the fish was handled that every effort (well-informed and based on years of knowledge and good practice) was made, to assure that the fish was released unharmed. To our best knowledge no violation of current law occurred. At no point was the fish grounded or taken from the water. The gills remained covered at all times and as we were both aware that these fish are ram-ventilators and need to be moving forward to take oxygen we kept the fish moving up and down the beach while we helped it regain its strength, moving its tail back and forth to help release cramping or lactic acid built up during the fight. The fish was actually brought to the beach extremely quickly considering its enormous size and took very little line compared to most sharks of this species. The pictures we took were taken very quickly (evidenced by the shaky nature of the shots!) as we were far more concerned with the well-being of the fish. I speak for the vast majority of land based shark anglers when I say that we have the utmost respect for these great fish and make their survival after capture our priority. We both risked injury and went to extreme lengths and almost total exhaustion to walk that fish for around an hour to give it every chance of survival and it swam away strongly. If we had ‘cut the line’ as suggested above, this fish may well have sunk to the bottom and never moved again. If we had cut the line while it was still a hundred yards away it would have been left trailing a long length of extremely strong line around, which would likely have become entangled in a reef, bridge or buoy and restricted the shark’s movement or trapped it, likely killing it. I do not feel that we could have handled the capture of this fish any better and I believe all our decisions were sound and complied with current laws.

    • Thanks for joining in the discussion. The perspective of someone who witnessed this catch is extremely valuable, and I’m glad that you share our respect for the ocean and its creatures.

      “If we had cut the line while it was still a hundred yards away it would have been left trailing a long length of extremely strong line around, which would likely have become entangled in a reef, bridge or buoy and restricted the shark’s movement or trapped it, likely killing it”

      To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of something like this ever happening (please correct me if I’m incorrect).

      Scientific data clearly shows that after even relatively short fights (much, much shorter than what occurred here)great hammerheads build up enough CO2 and lactic in their muscles that they rarely survive, even if they swim away. While dragging a long length of line isn’t ideal, it’s almost certainly preferable to an hour-long fight.

      The FWC best practices guide states that for some species, cutting the line is preferable to fighting it long enough that anglers can remove the hook. Austin’s data supports that recommendation for hammerhead sharks.

    • “To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of something like this ever happening (please correct me if I’m incorrect).”

      I know of three cases of this happening personally. I have seen a tarpon tangled up (floating and dead) to a dock with heavy monofilament line. I have saved a very small snook that was stuck on a rock with a long trail of line hanging out of its mouth attached to a hook.

      Lastly, an estimated 9ft bull shark in the Florida Keys became entangled on heavy fishing leader and a lobster trap bouy (the buoy used to identify to the crab and lobster trappers where there traps were laid long ago). This happened all before my eyes one morning as the angler hooked the fish and could no longer move it and the shark could no longer pull out line. This angler knew that the shark was still alive and made the judgement to leave the shark on the line for a short time until there was enough daylight for him to go out on the kayak and attempt to rescue the shark. He was not strong enough to free the shark from the kayak so he decided to clip an even heavier line to his leader and pull the shark into shallower water to help save it. This was not the outcome though; as the angler attempted to bring the shark in the heavier line that he attached to his lighter rigging broke the lighter rigging very close to the hook and we watched as the shark swam off strong.

    • Thanks for providing examples, Mark. In my experience in and around the water, I hadn’t heard of something like this happening. In your experience in and around the water, you’ve encountered it only three times.

      Can we agree that it can happen, but it’s extremely rare?

      Obviously having a long length of line trailing isn’t ideal, and it can sometimes/rarely lead to entanglement. However, an extended fight will almost always lead to stressing out the hammerhead so much that it will likely not survive even if it is resuscitated and swims away.

    • I don’t agree with the rareness for the same reasons you agree with it. The reasons for this being rare is because an ethical fisherman does not litter up the sea with 100’s of yards of their fishing line and it is extremely rare that a fishermen will let a fish go with a ton of line trailing behind it. If everyone were to begin doing this then rest assure the opportunities for ensnared sharks may indeed increase exponentially.

  13. I’m a scuba diver (Assistant Instructor for 3 years – no desire to be an instructor), an underwater photographer, studied sharks a bit over the years (played with & photographed a few different species), and I’m an occasional fisherman (though not for sharks, I have caught a few over the years, on accident… and released them back). I’m all for education & advocation of a topic, especially the topic of sharks. HOWEVER, I’m totally against any punishment to ‘this’ fisherman – in ‘this’ instance, and frankly find it interesting and somewhat disconcerting that so many people jump to so many conclusions with this situation, this fisherman’s description and time line, and evidence at hand. THAT IS SAD!

    a) unless I missed something in my shark studies, there is no physical way to tell if this is a male or female without seeing it’s underside… unless someone checked for the presence or absence of claspers. So, it’s tough to trust or respect anyone that intentionally assumed this is definitely one sex or the other. If there is another way that I’m ignorant to, please feel free to educate me. But these people ‘pounding’ the pity button claiming this is a female really needs to explain why they know that – or shut up about the sex of THAT SHARK! Seriously, stick to the facts, don’t invent crap! I do think, because of the size of the body and shape of the head (which can be seen in the photo) it’s reasonable to assume it’s an adult; but sexing it is nonsense, and a lame attempt to play on emotions.

    b) there is no information as to HOW the shark was hooked… whether the hook might have impaired it’s eating or not. Much less what type of hook, size or material wise… or the location of the ‘hook’ – or, for that matter, the type of line used. Stainless steel leader… and or braided line realistically should be removed. A stainless hook won’t just ‘rust away’ – so, location & size are very potentially important. Though, honestly, if I accidentally hooked one that size, I’m pretty doubtful my hand would be too dang close to the mouth (unless I could cover the eyes, and knew I could move unencumbered, and even then I’d have to seriously think about it). So, while clipping the line and setting it free might have been the easy choice, it may not have been the best choice. And NO ONE in the article addressed any of that. We can only assume what happened with the hook & line – where & how the shark was hooked, and on what. Those variables are potentially important, don’t you think? I’m personally not worries about the shark healing, but the potential of the hook impairing it’s ability to eat. That is an unknown.

    c) the story indicated that the fishermen tried to pick it up… maybe just for a photo, maybe to try to carry it home (to feed their family) if they didn’t previously know it was illegal to keep. Writers assuming why they tried picking up that shark is IMHO nearly as ignorant as attempting to pick up a LIVE shark that size to begin with! So, I’m guessing, that either the fish was really wore out from the fight (oxidative stress & acidosis)… or the fishermen really had a low IQ (or walked bull legged). I’m leaning toward the stressed & tired shark.

    d) walking the shark, back & forth IN THE WATER, until it was able to ‘swim off’ under it’s own power is EXACTLY what the fishermen should have done. The term ‘slowly’ is one I find interesting, as fish over 10′ in length – especially adult sharks – are normally ‘slow’ (and easy) swimmers, and usually don’t expend large amounts of energy, unless they are feeding or fleeing. So, personally, I find it interesting & amazing that all these people made any type of issue out of the ‘slow take off’ – I’ve personally witnessed many large fish (that were tagged, or just caught to be released) swim off slowly. And, I’ve seen a few that took upwards of what seemed ‘forever’ at the time… BECAUSE I was tired, they had teeth, and the adrenaline rush has subsided; but in reality it was just a few minutes. In general, the longer & more stressful the fight, the longer it takes to safely return them to the wild. Seriously, I’d have been more concerned about the sharks survival had the fisherman pushed it ‘off’ (back out to sea) in 5 minutes or so, after that long and stressful of a battle.

    Anyhow, it’s really AWESOME that awareness is being gathered, AND that one of the posters in this thread happened to know the fisherman. Personally, I think the fisherman did the right thing & the best thing, and using THIS CASE as an example or reason for stiffer regulation or more laws is ignorant at best, and very misinformed and unaware at worst.

    Sincerely,

    Terry Mercer
    Just a no one with a little information, an opinion, and only ONE VOTE!

    • The angler stated in his original post that the hook was not stainless and would rust out.

      Slow smoked pulled pork.

    • Terry, I’m a little confused by your comments. You accuse us of making unreasonable assumptions, but this post isn’t about assumptions at all.

      ” unless I missed something in my shark studies, there is no physical way to tell if this is a male or female without seeing it’s underside… unless someone checked for the presence or absence of claspers”

      Right… this was done. What’s your point?

      “there is no information as to HOW the shark was hooked”

      Right, and this is also not relevant at all. The entire point is that a prolonged fight is much worse for the long-term survival of a great hammerhead shark than cutting the line before it becomes overly stressed and can’t recover.

      ” the story indicated that the fishermen tried to pick it up… maybe just for a photo, maybe to try to carry it home (to feed their family) if they didn’t previously know it was illegal to keep. Writers assuming why they tried picking up that shark is IMHO nearly as ignorant ”

      It doesn’t matter, at all, why the angler tried to pick it up out of the water (which, fortunately for the angler, was impossible due to the shark’s weight). It is illegal to land great hammerheads. The FWC best practices guide specifically states that it isn’t legal to hold onto them just for a photo.

      ” walking the shark, back & forth IN THE WATER, until it was able to ‘swim off’ under it’s own power is EXACTLY what the fishermen should have done.”

      No, it is not. What the FWC best practices guide explicitly states, and years of scientific research corroborates, is that what the fishermen should have done is cut the line BEFORE the shark was so stressed out that it needed to be walked back and forth in the water. Great hammerhead sharks do not often recover once they are stressed past a certain point, and often die even after they swim away.

      “Seriously, I’d have been more concerned about the sharks survival had the fisherman pushed it ‘off’ (back out to sea) in 5 minutes or so, after that long and stressful of a battle”

      Terry, the whole point is to avoid “that long and stressful of a battle” in the first place.

    • unless I missed something in my shark studies, there is no physical way to tell if this is a male or female without seeing it’s underside… unless someone checked for the presence or absence of claspers.

      The angler identified it as female in his description of the incident.

    • To Terry. When the shark was on its side I did quickly check out its features and it was indeed absent of claspers, it had some scars, and even a full row of teeth marks on its hammer-like structure that had long ago healed and just looked like a scar. I did use and have always used “rust-away” hooks because they are cheap and better for the environment and the sharks. I personally have nowhere close to the ability to pick-up 900-1000lbs of weight and had no intention of harvesting this shark even if there were no laws against it. I do agree with you on your final statement and instead of the anglers and scientist constantly posing up the same arguments they should work together until there is nothing to argue between them.

  14. This shows that scientists and lab researchers dont know the first thing about sharks in the wild. These guys need to get out there and experience it themselves before they start accusing others of doing something wrong or against the law. Everything was done legally and properly, he released the shark and it swam away. How hard is that to understand? Tarpon fisherman revive tarpon next to their boats all the time after a long fight before they let them go. These labcoated guys need to go outside for once in their life and learn what a shark is really like and how sharks really act in the wild. Like Will said, “People have been catching and releasing these sharks for decades with experience and love for the sport and the sharks themselves”. Mark caught this shark properly and worked extremely hard to release it and it swam away, Congratulations!

    • “These guys need to get out there and experience it themselves before they start accusing others of doing something wrong ”

      Not that it is in any way relevant to this discussion, but Austin and I are in the field essentially every weekend working with large sharks. We both have years of experience interacting with sharks in the wild.

      “he released the shark and it swam away. How hard is that to understand? Tarpon fisherman revive tarpon next to their boats all the time”

      Swimming away does not mean it survived. An angler, even one with years of experience, cannot possibly know what happens to a shark once it swims away. Austin’s two-year-long research project demonstrated that great hammerhead sharks stress out more easily than other shark species, and recover less often. Tarpon are a completely separate issue. Our entire point is that what works for one species doesn’t work for another.

      “Mark caught this shark properly”

      Not according to the FWC best practices guide, which says that “it is never legal to hold on to or tow a fish that is not allowed to be harvested to a place to weigh or measure it”. Great hammerheads are not allowed to be harvested, therefore it is not legal to hold onto it to measure it. It should have been released immediately- BEFORE reviving it was necessary.

      “[Mark] worked extremely hard to release it”

      Granted, but if the FWC best practice guide was followed, he wouldn’t have had to.

    • You do not know what it takes to receive a degree in a marine biology field. Their ‘lab’ is the sea and they spend more time out there gathering precise information about the environment and species that inhabit it then you will likely do in you entire life. YOU need to realize that your ad-hominem experiences as an angler do not give you the education or clairvoyance to make a well reasoned argument capable of withstanding the rigors of science. Your disrespect for those intelligent, talented, and devoted people who have devoted there LIFE to understanding our marine and aquatic systems is not only profoundly ignorant but dangerous. Your ignorance is not equivalent to their knowledge so shut up and listen.

    • Well said David and Jason. Careful reading will answer all of the question you have related to field experience.

  15. Any angler who isn’t interested in improving their technique and the survival rate of animals they catch and release doesn’t deserve a fishing license.

    It’s ridiculous and counterproductive to claim that scientists “don’t know the first thing about sharks in the wild”. That’s their JOB. To learn (and know) stuff about sharks in the wild. They use satellite tags and acoustic transmitters and all this other crap to study this stuff. If great hammerheads die from being caught, and if their data (which I would love to see) proves that it’s better for the shark to cut the line, I would rather know that.

    The fact that you’ve caught a bunch of sharks doesn’t mean you know anything about what happens to them after you release them.

  16. I am quite appalled on how you went about writing this article. Many times in your article you state that you want his to bea “A teachable moment” and you “have no interest in demonizing someone” but yet the only thing you have done to prevent “demonizing someone” is keeping their name and face out.

    I believe you have done this through many assumptions you made in your article beggining with your title “Florida angler catches (and likely kills) Endangered great hammerhead shark”. This assumption of course was made by yourself who has never to my knowledge actually been able to study a large hammerhead shark after catch and release with or without satellite tags. Another huge assumption you made in your article that bothers me and many others have pointed out was that this shark was a female and again that it died “a rare adult female member of an endangered species almost certainly died.”. From the pictures I have seen there is no way the this shark could have been identified female or male.

    I humbly disagree with the idea of cutting 50 yds of line after 50 mins of a fight. I believe that if you are able to gain line on a fish of this size to get it 50 yds from shore the fish has alreayd expended its energy. To cut the line without reviving at this point would not be the best for the life of the fish. We can only attempt to use the best of our knowledge to ensure the life of these magnificant creatures.

    The young man should be congratulated on his catch and release of this beautiful creature not belittled on how somebody “thinks” what would have lead to a better outcome for the shark.

    I believe more needs to be done on the scientific end to get satellite tags in the hands of experienced anglers. But from what I have heard funding has gone down with many of these programs and it is hard enoguh to get a normal tag now adays.

    Smoked North Carolina Style Pulled Pork

    • The slides labeled “results: blood work” and “results: post release survival”, looking at those results, Austin, it looks like, for great hammers, even 20 minutes of fighting is too long, and at 60 minutes you’re looking at an uptick in CO2 build-up from respiratory failure.

    • “This assumption of course was made by yourself who has never to my knowledge actually been able to study a large hammerhead shark after catch and release with or without satellite tags.”

      Incorrect. He consulted an expert in this very area that has done studies on hammerheads with satellite tags. For more information on this look at the link I posted DIRECTLY ABOVE YOURS.

      “I humbly disagree with the idea of cutting 50 yds of line after 50 mins of a fight. I believe that if you are able to gain line on a fish of this size to get it 50 yds from shore the fish has alreay expended its energy.”

      To use your own argument: “This assumption of course was made by yourself who has never to my knowledge actually been able to study a large hammerhead shark after catch and release with or without satellite tags.” Nor, to my knowledge, have you ever collected extensive physiological data regarding hammerhead shark stressors.

    • “I believe more needs to be done on the scientific end to get satellite tags in the hands of experienced anglers.”

      I would gladly install accurate research equipment to some species of sharks that have less of a measure of stress than the hammerhead sharks. I have caught many different species of sharks and big fish and I believe species under less stress after being caught are tiger, bull, lemon, and nurse sharks.

      So if I can be involved in more scientific research for sharks I would not mind. I have helped UM research juvenile bull sharks at one point. I am only a high school kid so I do not have the money for all of that kind of stuff so if a research group would like to donate and show me the proper usage and installments of these devices I can responsibly send a shark on its way with a tracking device in it as long as the device itself poses no threat or harm to the shark itself.

  17. Alright, so there are some clear differences of opinion, expertise, and perspective here. Maybe instead of questioning whether landing and releasing the shark was better or worse (the situation cannot be changed now, and while I don’t agree with what Alex has said, she made a good point on the line being cut at 50 yards; she’d already been fighting for about 350 yards and at this point was already stressed).

    So, looking at both sides of the issue, is there a way for the conservation/research side to meet with the angling side? Eliminating whether or not the shark should have been landed – let’s approach this like he didn’t know it was a hammerhead – what are best practices once a shark is landed? What can the angling community and the conservation community agree on?

  18. “Much of our research aims to better inform anglers so that they can continue to enjoy their sport while having a smaller impact on the marine environment.”

    I love to fish and would love to continue to have productive fishing so I welcome any information on how to avoid having a negative impact on the marine environment. I also think there should be more focus on stopping all the finning and killing done by commercial shark fishermen. You question this angler’s treatment of his catch, however the people you should primarily be concerned about are the commercial anglers who haul up many tons of sharks per year just to cut their fins off and toss them back in the ocean to drown. Its all about money.

    “It should have been released immediately- BEFORE reviving it was necessary.”

    A shark of this size that puts up such a fight would have needed to be revived regardless, unless you are suggesting recreational anglers just cut the line from the get-go and let the fish trail hundreds of yards of line which could wrap around structure and perhaps drown the fish. Or are we to wait until the fish has been played out and is near shore, tired from the fight..just cut the line and let the fish sink to the bottom without attempting to revive it? If you don’t keep this species moving, they will drown. But you knew that, you’re a PHd. Any experienced shark angler who has respect for the catch will do what he or she can to make sure the fish does well after being caught..this includes reviving his/her catch. I feel that I owe it to a fish tired from the fight to revive it and keep it moving. I believe this is the best practice over just cutting the line and letting a tired disoriented fish flail in the wash to sink and drown.

    “Terry, the whole point is to avoid “that long and stressful of a battle” in the first place.”

    I agree..however sometimes this is beyond our control. We cannot control exactly what takes our bait, and a fish that size is not as easy to control on rod and reel as a trout. The angler fought this fish on high drag the whole fight and based on what I have heard about this species..one hour is a very short fight for a large hammerhead..The angler had applied 55 lbs (quite a bit to handle) of drag from his reel, attempting to break the spirit of the fish and end the fight quickly as possible.

    “the issue is what happened after it was caught.”

    You assume the angler killed this shark in your title, despite all the effort he put into releasing this fish which he never even removed from the water. What happened to that little pup shark in your avatar that you are holding out of the water? Should we just take your word for it that it is alive and well now, or perhaps the way you are holding the fish damaged its internal organs and the stress of being out of the water ended up killing it?

    • Terry, I see where you’re coming from, and you’re starting to help bridge the gap between conservation and angling (though, I don’t think there should be a gap, we have a lot to learn from each other). But the personal attack at the end was uncalled for.

    • Kathy, if you consider that an attack, then what do you consider the title of this article, where the author suggests the angler killed the fish? The gap you mention is created by instances such as that.

      And Jamison, smooth line isn’t easily caught on anything I agree. However, “within a few minutes” you are not moving a shark this size anywhere and he is still far off the beach. The suggestion of cutting the line at this point leaves a fish trailing a few hundred yards of line and when you are dealing with this much line washing around in the ocean currents I am sure it is bound to get tangled to some extent and while this tangled mess is dragged along wouldn’t you agree there is at least some chance it could catch onto a piece of coral, artificial reef, sunken boat, ect and perhaps limit the shark’s mobility to some extent?

    • Clearly, your goal is alienation, here – being that “Kathy” is not my name. If you read my entire comment, you’d see that I agreed with pretty much everything else you said.

    • I am sorry you feel that way and sorry for the name mixup. Also, in your reply you referred to me as “Terry” and that is also not my name so I suppose we are both guilty of that.

  19. “Not according to the FWC best practices guide, which says that “it is never legal to hold on to or tow a fish that is not allowed to be harvested to a place to weigh or measure it”. Great hammerheads are not allowed to be harvested, therefore it is not legal to hold onto it to measure it. It should have been released immediately- BEFORE reviving it was necessary.”

    That David would continue to pursue this as the best practice clearly signals that being book smart does not afford you a higher degree of COMMON SENSE.Tell me what gamefish in the world by what goverment’s laws have to be cut off immidiately when identified and I will tell you it does not EXIST.Again the common establshed and accepted method for reviving gamefish is the walk or boat driven water over the gills method so to change what is best for the animals survival is inconsistent with your studies and furthermore trying what you are pushing for makes absolutely no sense for the sharks.The fact that hammerheads need more water flowing over the gills to sustain them makes our attempts to revive by walking all the more correct and noble.We do not want the fish to die so we try and revive them and what you propose would certainly make death more certain.We fish mostly at night and we do not see the fish we’ve hooked until it is brought to the shoreline so at what point do WE CUT,,,,,IS it better to leave the hooks in?/The 20 foot cable or wire leader dangling??I seriously doubt that would be the ‘best practice’.

    Dr Sonny Gruber walks lemon sharks and tiger sharks to revive on the flats of Bimini Bahamas before being released from there longlines so why would we be required to cut a shark off to leave it to chance, when we desire TO HELP the shark in it’s recovery by reviving it?Makes no sense.Neither I, or you, or anybody will change the fact that hammerheads are 90% more likely to die on a fishermens line then all other species of sharks it is in there physiology.This being said if we can have a hand in helping then recover why would we not?

    UNLESS WHAT YOU WOULD REALLY WANT TO DO IS BAN FISHING ALTOGETHER ,,,which is the only way that you would avoid hammerhead sharks being hooked and fought to the point of exhaustion.

    Sometimes laws are inconsistent and in this case what you should be proposing to law makers should be the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what you suggest.Anyone catching a hammerhead should by law have to REVIVE THE SHARK until under it’s own power swims away.I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY HAMMERHEADS WE HAVE SAVED OVER THE YEARS BY CAREFULLY AND LOVINGLY WALKING DOWN A BEACH TO SAVE THERE LIFE. HAMMERHEAD SHARKS THAT WE HAVE VERY QUICKLY RELEASED ONLY TO SEE THEM FLOUNDERING IN THE SURF ,TURN UPSIDE DOWN, OR SINK TO THE BOTTOM ,,,,,WE DO ‘THE RIGHT THING’ WE WALK AND MASSAGE UNTIL LIFE IS RENEWED IN THE MARVELOUS FISH AND IT SWIMS AWAY THAT IS A GOOD NIGHT FOR A CONSCIOUS SHARK HUNTER IN AN ERA WHEN THE SHARKS WE CATCH ARE SHARKS WE WANT TO SEE SURVIVE AND THRIVE.

    I have spoken my mind and I am done with this. I only hope that good common sense and clean hearts will reign inside those in charge of passing new shark laws and the fishermen that catch them.Good luck to all.

    • I sincerely hope your ‘done with this’. You have been the least helpful person in all of the conversations concerning this matter.

    • Why does this have to be about laws? We both (apparently) want the same thing – sharks in the ocean for the foreseeable future. What’s so hard about understanding that different shark species respond to the fight differently, that people who actually study sharks in fact do know a god-damn thing or two about sharks, and that hammerheads simply can’t handle a prolonged fight the way something like a tiger shark can?

      Here’s a question for you: have you conducted any experiments to confirm that those hammerheads you lovingly walked and massaged until life was renewed survived? Have you bothered to understand why, based on the physiological data Austin presented in his talk, that some of those sharks might not survive? Have you bothered to consider that maintaining size-weight records for endangered species encourages anglers to pursue that monster fish and take risks with its health and survival in order to wave their dicks around on internet forums?

      Look, I love fishing, I want people to be able to fish for the foreseeable future. I want to be able to teach my grandchildren to fish. But lets get real here, catch-and-release fishing is something we do for fun. So step down from your self-righteous pedestal and get a grip. One way or another, we won’t be catching hammerheads in the future. Why don’t we work together to make sure that they’re still in the ocean. We’re catching fish for fun, it’s our responsibility to make concessions towards their survival.

  20. Those of you worried about a shark trailing several yards of line and getting ‘caught’. Can someone tell me of an instance when the line and not the hook was caught on something? Its not that easy for a smooth line to catch on something.

    • I am restating my reply to Mr. Shiffman ““To the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence of something like this ever happening (please correct me if I’m incorrect).”

      I know of three cases of this happening personally. I have seen a tarpon tangled up (floating and dead) to a dock with heavy monofilament line. I have saved a very small snook that was stuck on a rock with a long trail of line hanging out of its mouth attached to a hook.

      Lastly, an estimated 9ft bull shark in the Florida Keys became entangled on heavy fishing leader and a lobster trap bouy (the buoy used to identify to the crab and lobster trappers where there traps were laid long ago). This happened all before my eyes one morning as the angler hooked the fish and could no longer move it and the shark could no longer pull out line. This angler knew that the shark was still alive and made the judgement to leave the shark on the line for a short time until there was enough daylight for him to go out on the kayak and attempt to rescue the shark. He was not strong enough to free the shark from the kayak so he decided to clip an even heavier line to his leader and pull the shark into shallower water to help save it. This was not the outcome though; as the angler attempted to bring the shark in the heavier line that he attached to his lighter rigging broke the lighter rigging very close to the hook and we watched as the shark swam off strong.”

  21. I sit in the middle of both parties. I am an active marine conservationist. I petition where I can, donate time and money to organizations that I think will help preserve sharks, tuna and other marine life. When Dave was in the running for the sponsorship of his blog last year, I posted the link to vote for him every day for about three months on every site I frequent. Likewise, I have been a dedicated catch and release shark angler for twenty years.

    I have not read every single post here, but did notice 2 things:

    #1. Bickering about single words and sentences or words has replaced rational debate. Remember debate does NOT mean fighting it means discussion of viewpoints.

    #2. The scientists and catch & release fishermen have far more in common than they disagree upon.

    Here are two lessons I think WE ALL can learn:

    #1. After reading about Co2 build-up in sharks during fights, it is clear that shark fishermen should neither beach a shark for photos nor allow the shark to stop moving. Get the fish in shallow water, revive it by walking it and send it on its way as fast as possible. Have someone take the photo while you free the fish. Do not measure it, do not go for the “jaws shot” just keep it moving and let go when it is recovered, but do nothing to delay the release. If you care about sharks, and you care about the sport this is the only responsible way to behave.

    This is a big issue because I am an active member of Texas Shark fishing’s forum (youknowryan is my username) and I also looked at the Florida forum. In both forums, there are hundreds if not thousands of pictures of people with the shark dragged onto the beach for photos. Doing this to a shark is like a human running as fast as he can for 15-60 minutes (the duration of most fights) and then having someone hold your head underwater for 2-5 minutes at the very end. This is terrible since it is when you need to breathe the most. Well, in reverse that’s what some people do to the shark! I have never beached a shark myself, and will encourage other not to since it’s even worse that I initially figured.

    #2. The scientists/non-fishing conservationists should remember that their best allies are catch & release shark fishermen. Out of the hundreds I have met, only 1-2% would ever keep a shark (and the few that do are generally looked down upon by the others). 98% want nothing more than to release their catch and see all sharks thrive. This means they usually support policies/laws aimed to that end and do the valuable service of helping friends, family, other anglers, etc. see the value in live sharks. They preach catch limits, size limits, and treating the animals with respect.

    I would advise the scientists to be very careful in how they say things because the shark fisherman is a solid ally and good intentions on the scientist’s part might be misinterpreted with what might be misconstrued as accusatory language. For example, “likely kills” might be accurate; however “endangered the life of” means the same thing, but is less likely to make the other side stop listening. After reading the original blog entry, I have posted a link and my thoughts on a couple of sites I visit to spread the word. I would bet my last dollar that numerous shark fishermen are now revising how they will handle sharks in the future and will no doubt share this information with other sharkers. This event will have some positive results!

    In sum, both groups have a lot in common, and I hope that everyone will continue to respect each other’s views and remember that the continued existence of sharks is the #1 thing we all care about. It is here we must focus our efforts and be understanding of the other side’s thoughts and actions.

  22. Great article! As I try to do on my website http://www.floridagofishing.com, educating anglers is very important. Now that the Great Hammerhead is protected anglers need to know the rules and proper release procedures if they catch this beautiful shark. Hammerheads are very common in South Florida and I don’t think many know the new rules. I would love to republish this article on my website if possible to educate my readers.

  23. I guess I’m confused. How does any person know for certain this animal died? Based on their expert opinion? I can’t see how any person, looking at a picture, can tell what happened to that non tagged shark after it swam away in a large body of water, let alone the ocean.

    I’m not a scientist, nor was I there when this happened. I know Monday morning quarterbacking when I read it though.

    I realize biologists that study these animals in the wild have a whole other perspective than the anglers. Both would be better served to have a working relationship with each other.

    That is, if the ultimate objective is truly the welfare and conservation of the species.

    This incident seemed to be within the parameters of the current guidelines for catch and release as it is written. I called the FWC and spoke at length about this event. The sources I spoke with didn’t see any violation of law either. I brought the images with me, as well as this young man’s report that the author mentions in his summary of events. No violation was found in what was shown.

    If the author has an opinion on the law, based on his own viewpoint, that’s his right.

    Personal opinions do not factor into how these laws should be enforced or interpeted.

    Show the studies that support your hypothesis, and make your case, it’s that simple.

    I think you will find many anglers (myself included) much more inclined to listen to a scientific explanation instead of conjecture.

    If possible, could you also include the catch data of long line vessels and trawlers? It should be brought into the discussion as well, since they kill off thousands of more endangered animals every year commercially.

    A commercial industry whose by catch, just happens to kill more sharks than any other form of oceanic harvest. That holds true in all of the world’s oceans, not just the Gulf or the Atlantic.

    Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not a scientist, but I would think the kill numbers may be much higher than any land based angler group using rods and reels.

    This inconvenient truth seems to get glossed over by biologists and lawmakers from time to time.

    I don’t mean to be contrite, but I wish your response to be accurate.

    Why is it easier to target law abiding anglers, than it is to stop a 100 ton fishing vessel? Especially when the vessel is slaughtering sharks by the hundreds each day it operates??

    I have never understood that concept….

    Long line trawlers kill more sharks than any other form of oceanic harvest in the world’s oceans. They don’t cut their lines and let the shark swim away either, as you already know. The animals are finned and thrown overboard in most cases.

    Where are the studies on that ecosystem impact being done?

    Like it or not, recreational anglers drive a multi billion dollar sport economy in the United States. $722 million was spent by recreational anglers in the state of Florida alone in 2009.

    Ironically, some of these revenues fund alot of the research grants you and other biology majors enjoy as students right now, and in the future.

    Writing a piece on the alleged “killing of a protected species” -without evidence- will garnish attention. If that was your goal,then it seems you accomplished what you intended.

    A sensational opinion is not going to solve the issue here. We have to come to a solution and try to work together.

    • “I guess I’m confused. How does any person know for certain this animal died? Based on their expert opinion? I can’t see how any person, looking at a picture, can tell what happened to that non tagged shark after it swam away in a large body of water, let alone the ocean.

      I’m not a scientist, nor was I there when this happened. I know Monday morning quarterbacking when I read it though.”

      The ‘expert opinion’ is based on years of studying this exact question (what happens to sharks of different species, including the great hammerhead, after fighting fishing gear for different amounts of time).

  24. I’d would like to ask that commenters refrain from playing “Ocean Impact Olympics”. Yes, there are other issues in marine conservation, fisheries management, and industry oversight. Just because big things are happening in the ocean, doesn’t mean we can’t talk about smaller, local issues as well.

    I’d encourage anyone who feels that we should be more concerned with other ocean issues to spend some time perusing this site, as we have over 1200 articles running the gamut from deep-sea mineral extraction to exobiology.

    The “Best Of SFS” page is a good place to start.

  25. I dont want to get into the Pro’s/Con’s, For/Against etc but what I will say is this. Anyone wishing to fish MUST be prepared to kill whatever’s on the end of the line, it’s that simple. Maybe through stress? Maybe for lunch? Or maybe you loose what’s on the line to a bigger fish! Who knows.. BUT you must be prepared for the death that will be on your hands. Am I saying he should be punished for what he’s done? Have the law thrown in his face? No, I’m saying he needs to accept what’s happened, learn from it and help prevent this happening again. So, what should he have done? I simply agree with this blog and furthermore think anyone with the responsibility of taking something’s life needs to be educated before doing so! He simply has a responsibility to know what’s he’s doing! So, on another note I asked a few family members and friends who know very little about the sea ‘What would you have done…’ The answers ranged from cutting the line to getting a little closer to cut the line! The people I asked never thought to bring the fish in for photgraphs and measurements! Of course everyone is different but I can’t help but feel bringing this fish in was for glory. So I again say; Know what you’re doing before you start throwing your line out. Misidentity between a Great White and a Mako is understandable (To a certain extent) But to catch a Shark such as a Hammerhead and not know its protected is outrageous! Most 6 years olds can tell the odd shape of a Hammerhead so its not hard to recognise as a protected fish once taught! So again it comes back to education, and lack of it. Its not up to the state to provide this it’s personal education, personal responsibility, research what you’re doing before you make BIG mistakess that result in the death of an animal!

    • You state someone not knowing it is a hammerhead. The angler can’t tell what kind of fish it is until he physically can see it. I assure you that the fisherman of these Land Based Shark Fishing groups know that hammerheads and tiger sharks have been added to the list of endangered species, but unfortunately it is hard to hook a fish then immediately know what it is until you can see it.

  26. I am confused as to why the person who caught this shark is noted for not doing the correct things. Just follow me on this….a person hooks an Unidentifiable fish (likely a shark) and after 50 minutes of “fighting” he then sees the fish, as it is a Hammerhead about 30 yds from shore. Now here is the crossroad I see in everyone arguing over this. What are the choices the angler has:

    A) Do what the angler did in this case, reel it into the shallows causing apprx 10 more minutes of stress then doing everything in his power to revive it

    B) Cut the line after 50 minutes of fighting leaving apprx 30yds of heacy monofilament/braid (Which can catch on lobster traps etc due to it not being smooth, typically will knot up) and a steel leader of unknown length (at least 6 feet). Heavy monofilament balls up quickly (go pick up a piece of 200-600lb mono and the heavier it is the easier it twists and tangles).

    C) Another option?????

    So my question is to the Author of this report, scientifically speaking are the odds in favor for this shark to survive with option A, or B or is there a C???
    I am not trying to bicker or argue, I just want to get to the point in this scenario so in the future the common fishing angler knows.

    • Regarding (B). Do you have experience or know of an instance where a shark trialing a line was caught on a lobster trap? Im not being facetious.

    • Yes I do, I have personally taken off two sharks (one bull, one lemon) off of a large crap trap that had about 100-150yds of braid wrapped in a nice big mess on the rope. I have also heard stories of hammerheads and lemon sharks being stuck on the lobster traps by 7 mile bridge in the keys (however, this is not first hand knowledge).

    • I completely see where you’re coming from Rich, and I identify with what you’re saying:
      Did the revival efforts counteract the affects of stress from the whole fight? Just the last 50 yards (after it had been identified and “conservation side” thinks line should have been cut)? Or the entire 400 yard fight? Did the last 50 yards make enough of a difference in the shark’s stress to be the turning point, or was the shark already too far gone without any revival efforts?

  27. “Why don’t we work together to make sure that they’re still in the ocean.”

    Then instead of creating an article attempting to shed dark light on a group work together In a positive manner with LBSF groups. Im sure you will find they are one of the kindest groups of fisherman you can find.

    • I totally agree with you..and yes you will find there are many excellent people in this community of anglers willing to work with anyone concerned about maintaining shark populations.

      Not all of us are “beer swilling beach jockies with rods” as distastefully stated by “southernfriedscientist” via his twitter account.

    • I can’t help but notice that you don’t find any of the insults stated by anglers on this forum distasteful.

  28. I would first like to address the author of this article. It is titled “Florida angler catches (and likely kills) Endangered great hammerhead shark”
    … your addition of the words within the parenthesis automatically sets in a tone of bias towards one set of views and against me which I feel slightly threatened. The pen is mightier than the sword and a great speaker has the ability to sway public opinion whether it be good or bad.

    The author also states “The shark was not released alive and unharmed. By the angler’s own admission, it took over an hour of resuscitation before the animal was able to even swim away slowly.” Again there is total bias and a wave of negativity thrown upon me (an angler whom which put in vigorous efforts in the release of such a magnificent creature).

    In more specific details: I wrote in a different post about the efforts it took me and my friend to release this fish. I quote myself: “That shark was an intelligent creature and more than likely older than myself. I tend to respect my elders and help them out to the best of my abilities. I could tell that this shark was aching and was trying to curl up into a C shape in order to stretch and that it was under a load of stress. Dan and I worked quickly to photograph, clip away as much of the rigging as possible, and get the shark back into the water flow. The tide was incoming so we started by walking the shark against the tide which helped the flow of water throughout its gills. We repeated a few laps of walking back and forth with the shark. Our backs were severely aching from the sheer weight of this fish. Dan reminded me that from the extensive fight the shark had probably built up a ton of lactic acid within its muscles; so the second part of my plan was to get those muscles moving as best as I could, I held the shark by the hammer-like structure being careful not to poke it in the eye and I swayed its head back and forth, un-stiffening muscles and getting even more water flowing throughout the gills. Dan was responsibly swaying its tail and tail-end of the sharks body to also help release lactic acid and stiffness. The shark broke free from us 3-times but we quickly retrieved it and continued the walking process because I did not feel the animal was strong enough to survive at the moment. We ran into several spotted eagle rays and southern stingrays in the process (one of which I came within inches of stepping on… so please don’t tell me this process was not harmful to me.)”

    Commenting on this remark: “It is not legal to hold on to a fish that’s not allowed to be harvested just to measure it, which is what happened in this case according to the angler’s account.” Of course I wanted a picture because that is my passion (to catch, photograph, and release big fish) and of course I measured it and did so speedily. There is nothing illegal about measuring a fish, please read the laws on harvesting snook, snapper, grouper, and other such fish which must be measured and is encouraged to send in data to the FWC for their studies. Also scientists that catch, tag, and release sharks “hold on to a fish that’s not allowed to be harvested” and they do measure it.

    In “A call for leniency” I thank the author and Chuck Bangley for the needed support and seeing the situations more or less in my own shoes.

    In “A teachable moment” I would like to say and think that I am not the heavy fishing pressure on the hammerhead population, I have only caught one in my entire life and I ensured its survival. I hope this “heavy fishing pressure” is referring to the legal and illegal long-line fishermen and I hope that that shady business can be ended completely.

    To Austin Gallagher: You have made an educated response based upon the best of your knowledge and it is true that this fish was under a high level of stress, but I would like to point out that your statement about “Hammerheads have very small mouths, which limits the amount of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release” is not entirely accurate because most sharks do not actually use their mouths for breathing because they can get their oxygen with their mouths closed. Sharks flush water over their gills which is on the externals of the shark so the size of their mouth has little to nothing to do with their ability to breath.

    Towards the people who have commented on this blog, I see different sides and I thank the people that understood that I am trying to conserve sharks and protect shark fishing rights and I tried my best and I am completely positive that that shark is swimming around at this very moment. To the other people who commented completely against me, that is your opinion but I believe your opinion may have changed if you were there to witness my situation and I hope that you could make the same decisions as I did rather than cutting the line, many yards away when we realized it was a hammerhead which was exhausted and in shallow water and probably would have had no chance of swimming away on its own, I chose to take the extra 5-10 minutes to bring this shark close enough to get as much of my rigging off of this shark without harming it and getting it into the current and assisting it in swimming, breathing, and relieving it of lactic acid build up so it had the chance to make a full recovery and break free from my iron grip and swim off steadily with what I believed was the certainty of its survival.

    To this blog: Sorry that my comment was so long but I feel I had to address many many issues I saw at first glance and I notice that this comment will go on the bottom of a very long list of comments so I hope that considering I am who this article is about, my comment can be moved up so people may read and see my opinions.

    • Regardless of anybody opinion, the data and circumstances support a high probability of mortality. Nobody is demonizing you as a great threat to shark species. But come on. Own up. Sharks don’t live off warm fuzzy feelings.

    • High mortality rate I completely agree. But if you are against this individual fishing in general that is another topic. He took action once he KNEW what was hooked and made the choice to add 10 more minutes of stress to help this shark live opposed to cutting the line at that point and letting it regain it owns breath with no help and a large sum of line/leader that could potentially cause more harm.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I know that even over the course of this discussion my views and opinions have changed, and put in the same position, I don’t know what I would have done. It all depends on who was with me at the time.

      As I read your comment, it sounds like Dan and your understanding of shark physiology was higher than average, and that you even fought it a little after it was on shore to make sure it had recovered.

      Thank you!

  29. I’m pretty sure sharks/fish (without spiracles) do need to take in water through their mouth in order to pass it out over their gills through their gill flaps. I feel like I should be more confident about this, but your confidence threw me off.

    • Sharks use their nostrils to detect food and other important odors through their olfactory organs. Their gills are what pump oxygen from H2O to allow them to breathe. (“Sharks do have noses, but they only use them for smelling, not for breathing.”-oceanofk.org/sharks/sharkAnatomy.html)

  30. Looking at this situation in the “big scheme of things” I think we could unite these 2 parties for one common goal. Using this (and more)scientific knowledge, along with real-word angling experience, we could ultimately do what’s best for, what we are all here for, THE SHARK.

    Coming from me, a SFSC member, Whether it’s a matter of experience of the fisherman, scientist, of not, we both have good points to make, and both parties know what they are talking about, and can make a difference in the same direction.

  31. Thanks for writing this blog, David!
    I am a diver, a surfer, an active shark/ocean conservationist and an occasional recreational fishermen from Santa Barbara, CA. I have a lot of friends who are commercial fishermen and I occasionally go out with them when they fish to learn more about what they do and sometimes I’ll bring a pole and catch my dinner. They target halibut by trolling with baited hooks and they occasionally snag thresher sharks. Most of the time they are released with the best practices found here: http://www.pier.org/flyers/BREP_thresher_brochure.pdf
    It’s great to have such a resource because without it we would have been putting both the sharks and ourselves in danger.
    There is a lot of talk on here back and forth about folks on both sides claiming to know the best practices of releasing these hammers but I can still guarantee that there are folks out there that may be starting to pick up the sport (I here the sport is gaining popularity) that may not know best practices.
    It seems this is a great opportunity for both the scientific community and fishermen to collaborate on producing a best practices and safe handling guide for all types of hammers (and other commonly caught species) in Florida. Or does this already exist?

    -Jonathan Gonzalez
    @EatUSSeafood

  32. [this comment may not be an accurate reflection of the incident. See Mark’s responses below -Ed.]

    I personally know this kid and i think what he did is foolish and illegal. 1) He stated in a post that he used two hoooks on the bait that he put out. It has been illegal to put two hooks on one line for a while now. 2) he was fishing on private property in the middle of the day around people in an area where teachers of that school take their kids to bathe in the water. 3) he seems to have no remorse for his actions which bafels me. He is a young kid who has many older people behind him who back him up regardless if he is right or wrong, including the short tempered William. It angers me everytime i read a post about what he did and the fact that people back hiim up adds fuel to the fire.

    • I’m sorry Manny, but you do not personally know me and I do not personally know you because the people I know are my friends and would not speak of me in such a way. 1st of all, the hook law refers to a double or triple hook which would refer to the type of hooks used on lures like treble hooks. This law was made so that certain species of fish and shark would not be hooked through both sides of their mouths which would stop them from opening and closing their mouths and this would eventually lead them to a slow death of starvation. 2. I talked to the security guard in the area and he had no problem with me fishing there just as my friends that live on waterfront property have no problem with me fishing on there property. 3. how can you say I have no remorse for my actions? you are one to talk considering the efforts I put into the survival of that magnificent creature. I don’t pretend to know every law, neither do the majority of most Americans. That is why we have lawyers to interpret laws into a language that can be understood by all and not just the creators of the law. Many laws are made vague on purpose for various reasons and I’m sorry if I did not take a law book with me when I go fishing.

    • To add more; I never once discussed how my hooks or rigging was made. You saying that you know me and I may or may not know you because you may be hiding behind your computer under an alias “Manny” and saying that I was fishing a rigging that I may or may not have used is somewhat preposterous. If you are going to post on an educated forum please be respectful and use discretion. I’m sorry to the other bloggers and the scientists on this forum that had to read the details of this man’s vulgarities. I am just a “young kid” (as you referred to me) in highschool and cannot see why a (assumed) grown man would wish me to pay some consequences that I may not have even been aware of. You ultimately wish that I pay some ridiculous fines or spend time in jail when I am just trying to complete highschool and enter college. there is a maturity level and a level of respect for all others that I normally tend to follow but I can no longer respect you on the accounts of these flat out lies.

    • Stop lying out of your ass Mark, you know u used two hooks and it was posted but was quickly removed due to its legality. I dont want u to have jail time, im not ruthless. But as i said before, i have not seen u show remorse for killing such an animal. Yeah u tried to revive it, but not before u got your very important pictures, right… and that area if u new anything about it besides ppl catch fish off of it, always has people and even kids on that beach especially during the day, sun bathing and enjoying the water. I’ve worked their and have seen this on a daily basis.

    • lmao,come on, if u believe ur bs law jargon than you can admit u used two hooks. Ive followed this closesly and saw your fishing post on a fishing site but those rig facts were quickly removed due to its legality. I dont want u to have jail time, im not ruthless. But as i said before, i have not seen u show remorse for killing such an animal. Yeah u tried to revive it, but not before u got your very important pictures, right… and that area if u new anything about it besides ppl catch fish off of it, always has people and even kids on that beach especially during the day, sun bathing and enjoying the water. I’ve worked their and have seen this on a daily basis.

    • Manny, Mark says that you don’t know him. Why would you claim to know him (and to know additional details about this story that aren’t written anywhere) if you do not? That doesn’t help to advance the discussion. There are quite a few scientists and fishermen involved in this discussion that would like to work together for the benefit of sharks (including Mark), and nonsense like this doesn’t help.

  33. At the risk of putting words in my denticulous co-blogger’s mouth, I think the major take-home messages of this debate (at least as it pertains to how to deal with a hooked hammerhead) are:

    A. Some sharks, particularly hammerheads, have a lower survival ratio following prolonged (or even relatively short) fights.

    B. In cases where a hammerhead is positively identified early in the catch process, the angler needs to make a judgement call about whether or not to cut the line long, knowing that every extra minute spent trying to reel in the line decreases the chance of the hammerheads survival, but that trailing line may also be detrimental to survival.

    C. In cases when a hammerhead is identified late in the catch process, after a prolonged fight has already taken place, the methods employed by Mark to walk and revive the shark before release are preferred, but the shark should not be taken out of the water and extra time should not be wasted measuring and posing for pictures (but there ain’t nothing wrong with getting a few snapshots during the revival process, provided it doesn’t detract from getting the animal back in the water).

    Does that about sum it up?

  34. From SOS a lbsf sister website and just about the way I’ve got to look at this blown out of proportion incident in order to accept all the unfair bs and judgements made against a very intelligent and rather eloquent young fellow sharker of ours who did nothing wrong.Ya done good Mark we love you little brother.

    “I believe that is the whole issue. FWC won’t be the problem because if they didnt love huntin and fishing, they probably wouldn’t be working for FWC. Its always the people who take their beliefs and shove them down other peoples throats that cause all the problems. We are all entitled to our opinions but when you force your opinion on others, you become part of the problem not a part of the solution. I think we should all go out on the beach, light a big pile of used tires on fire, beat some small furry animals in the head, smoke a pack of Marlboro’s, drink some beer, play a game of Yard Darts when we all get drunk, and shark fish”

    As Lake Worth pier TimmyT would say “good shit right there” Dale!!!!!

    • No BS or judgments have been made against any anglers, particularly not Mark. We are using an incident that already happened and is well-documented in order to discuss best practices for the future. No one is forcing an opinion, we are sharing scientific data and the FWC best practices guide.

      Many of the fishermen who have commented on this post have participated in the discussion in a positive, constructive way. However, stating desire to beat furry animals and burn plastic on the beach because you’re annoyed that I’ve pointed out that your practices do not conform with the FWC best practices guide doesn’t really advance the case that land-based shark fishermen are trying to do what’s best for the environment while enjoying your sport.

  35. I am a game fisherman.
    I am also a shark conservationist.

    May I second the Southern Fried Scientist.

    The law mandates that prohibited species must be released immediately, alive and unharmed.
    I assume that everybody participating in this debate wants to follow the law, and that everybody also wants to release the shark with as little damage as possible.

    It is evident that nobody controls which fish/shark will take the bait, and it also is evident that the angler is only obliged to release the animal after having identified it.
    When that ID happens is completely dependent on individual circumstances, e.g. whether/when the shark comes to the surface, water visibility etc.

    a. if the ID happens early on and the shark is still green, it is probably best to release it right away irrespective of the line it will drag around and irrespective of the angler’s wish to take pictures and measurements – this especially when the species, like hammerheads, is highly vulnerable to capture stress.

    b. if the ID happens late and the animal is already exhausted, reeling it in, removing the hook etc and walking it appears to be the best solution. And yes taking pictures whilst this happens is perfectly OK.

    c. dragging the shark onto the beach is illegal

    Can everybody agree with this?

  36. Are you guys aware about the fact that, if an angler hooks into a hammerhead at night – that fish may die while its fought by that fishermen BEFORE is even identified as being a hammerhead? Also, with all these lectures written above, none of you have any clue that actually – something like that is still not illegal if released dead without being taken out of the water. How many of you know that you can actually legally kill hammerheads hooked in the 3 mile state waters and harvested in federal water later on? So, before judging one guy – make sure you know all the loopholes of the law – and what the boater can get away with – killing legally state protected sharks in federal waters. This is not grouper that goes back in hole nor a small fish that runs 20yds while hooked, this is an animal that can pull a boat with 2 guys 12 miles without stopping (http://www.outdoorlife.com/articles/fishing/2007/09/new-world-record-shark). So – you think that 3 mile stretch would be a problem for a boater with a monster hammerhead? Don’t be naive – be realistic.
    That being said – this law, for this specific species of fish is designed in such a way, where land-based shark fishermen are fully affected versus a “wallet guy” with his 100k boat going in federal water with protected shark. By mentioning going – i meant letting intentionally the shark to swim towards federal waters, while still hooked, where can be harvested later on. More – after that kill happens – that boater can drive all the way – without stopping – to the docs having on board the shark hammerhead harvested in federal waters. This really makes me wonder – from whom we protect these fish? From an area of population or from a lower income class people that can’t afford a boat. You be the judge on that.

    • While I understand what you’re saying, that’s not really what we’re discussing here. As Southern Fried Scientist put it yesterday:

      “I’d would like to ask that commenters refrain from playing “Ocean Impact Olympics”. Yes, there are other issues in marine conservation, fisheries management, and industry oversight. Just because big things are happening in the ocean, doesn’t mean we can’t talk about smaller, local issues as well.

      I’d encourage anyone who feels that we should be more concerned with other ocean issues to spend some time perusing this site, as we have over 1200 articles running the gamut from deep-sea mineral extraction to exobiology.

      The “Best Of SFS” page is a good place to start.”

    • Thanks for your comments, Boghy.

      As has been stated many times, my intention was not to “judge one guy”, but to use this incident to bring the scientific and fishing communities together to discuss best practices for the future. What’s done is done and we can’t change it, but we can learn from it.

      “Are you guys aware about the fact that, if an angler hooks into a hammerhead at night – that fish may die while its fought by that fishermen BEFORE is even identified as being a hammerhead?”

      Sure, and there’s little that can be done about that. It’s also not really what we’re talking about here.

      “something like that is still not illegal if released dead without being taken out of the water. How many of you know that you can actually legally kill hammerheads hooked in the 3 mile state waters and harvested in federal water later on?”

      We’re not just talking about legality, Boghy. It’s been said many times, including by many fishermen in this comment thread, that land-based shark fishermen have a strong conservation ethic and have a desire to see the sharks that they catch survive. We’re talking about best practices to ensure survival. They aren’t always applicable, but they often are.

  37. For the record, many people have asked about my avatar picture, suggesting that a photo of me holding a “baby hammerhead” is hypocritical in this case. The photo, as I’ve said many times before on this blog, is of me holding an adult bonnethead shark. It is a different species, one that is not Endangered and not legally protected. Additionally, that photo was taken during the approximately 15 seconds while the shark was out of the water and being used to teach a group of high school science class students about shark anatomy. We kept it in captivity for approximately a week after this photo was taken before releasing it, so I know that it survived at least that long and did not die from capture stress.

    • For this same reason I believe that it is a little extreme to not take the 1.5 minutes maximum that it took me and Dan to measure and photograph the shark. I am very good about time management and very fast yet cautious to get a shark revived and swimming off again.

    • Mark & My Fellow Anglers, In my opinion, taking 1.5-2 minutes to hold a shark still so it can be photographed and measured will cannot help the shark to recover at the end of a fight when they are very oxygen depleted. For example, try running up an down some stairs at a good speed with a backpack filled with books (this would simulate drag) for even 5 minutes and then holding your breath for 1.5-2 minutes. It would be painful and the body would likely force you to breath. In the case of the sharks, they are in even more need of breathing, and when held still or pulled out of the water onto the beach, they are being prevented from breathing. The photo part is 100% fine as long as it is taken while the shark is being moved. I find that smaller sharks usually recover more quickly, but this is a function of the fact that my Penn International 50W set ups are too heavy for their weight and the fights are over quickly. In these cases the fish is sometimes released before we get a good photo. Conversely the bigger sharks tend to take more time to bring to shore/revive and we usually get more/ better photos. My point is that you will almost always get more/better photos of the bigger sharks by the nature of the fight and recovery period. As for the team structure I use, I usually fish with 2 other people for a total of 3. Our system is like this: Angler, reviving/de-hooking assistant, camera man. The first two work the fight while the last guy is snapping away. When I do go out with only one other person, I just do not do the photos. I leave the camera at home to avoid temptation. It can suck because some days we catch many fish and have zero photos of it all, but the shark deserves 100% of my attention as quickly as possible. My method and the one I recommend to all anglers: revive & release trumps everything, but if planned for carefully, one can get good photos about 95% of the time. That’s my 2 cents.

  38. WhySharksMatter wrote: We’re not just talking about legality, Boghy. It’s been said many times, including by many fishermen in this comment thread, that land-based shark fishermen have a strong conservation ethic and have a desire to see the sharks that they catch survive. We’re talking about best practices to ensure survival. They aren’t always applicable, but they often are.
    So what’s the problem WhySharksMatter here? The fisherman caught the fish and was released in the nature.
    Or should i say – assumption is the Mather of all failure – which you even start your title with “and likely kills”. Same thing i can say – i’ll gonna go shark fishing and likely catch another hammerhead in same condition and come back here and smile at the same subject. That’s likely to happen.

  39. Question: Does anyone know if there are posted signs at any popular land fishing locations which outline the “best practices” for catch and release ?

    I would think this would be an excellent public service to research, develop and raise money for, if they are not already in place. Prominent catch and release best practice postings at popular Florida bridge fishing and beach locations would be a worthwhile endeavor. The brief summaries won’t be perfect, however perhaps better than incorrect information passed word of mouth.

    • That’s a great idea, but if not signs than at least some brochure/flyer handout would be cool, too. I’m not sure if you saw my comment above, but I reference this “Best practices for safe handling” handout for threshers: http://www.pier.org/flyers/BREP_thresher_brochure.pdf
      Of course it would have to be translated to relate more to shore fishing and Florida’s commonly caught shark species, but at least it serves as a good example of scientists and fishermen working together to produce an educational piece that helps increase both the survivorship of the shark and the safety of the fishermen.

    • This is great information and I would like to again comment on the remarks of Austin Gallagher.

      This article mentions that “When at the boat, an exhausted shark often looks dead, but most of the time it is not. If the mouth is pumping regularly, then the shark can typically be released in good condition.”

      My shark may have appeared dead from the pictures but its mouth was pumping and I still have full confidence that this shark is alive.

    • Sharks pump their mouths when their body needs more oxygen, and they are unable to get enough with normal propulsion. I haven’t done research with hammerheads, but in sand tigers, this is a sign of a highly stressed shark, and in some cases, a dying shark (not that this hammerhead was dying, just that it’s similar to a convulsion response – After reading everything I’m very confident this shark survived).

      Maybe in the best practices report Liz W was mentioning, some of the signs of stress and extreme stress could be highlighted as well.

  40. Half the avatars of folks on the shark fishing fan club site show the fish landed well up on the beach, with the heads bent backwards by the angler in order to get a good photo of the jaws. The first priority of these people is not returning sharks to the water unharmed.

    • I would assume most if not all of those sharks are for harvest and consumption.

      P.S. You’ve got 99 comments but this ain’t one!

    • Large sharks of the species targeted by recreational fishermen are very rarely consumed. In addition to having a very high mercury content, the flesh of most species of shark isn’t generally considered palatable.

    • Psychologist have plenty to say about people who kill animals for fun. Not me though. I’m not a psychologist.

      I do support non-consumptive harvesting of predators as a management strategy when that strategy is left to the discretion of biologists.

      What can I say. I have a soft spot for biologists and scientists in general.

    • Sadly most large sharks that are not released are hung by their tail for photos and then discarded. Sometimes it is cut into trap bait (for lobsters or crabs). In the very rarest instances, the fish is kept for an official weigh-in if it looks to be a record for a weight or tackle category.

  41. At DC, the shark club does not discriminate against most fishermen whether they follow the best practices or not because it is about the unity of the fishermen that keeps the community strong and ready to take hard hits from all directions. Sometimes it’s not about what you know but about who you know.

    At Jason, assuming is not the best way to go about the course of life for it may lead to deception or disappointment. The majority of the anglers on the shark club practice catch and release fishing. I cannot speak on behalf of every fisherman because this club has members spread from all over Florida, the US, and even some parts of the world.

    • Yes, I knew it was a tacit assumption. My actual thoughts on the matter are not constructive for this forum.

    • I would argue that what keeps fishing strong is the abundance/availability of fish. Best practices help to that end. Having a right in the legal sense does not make something right in the sense of being best for the sport. I use every tool in my arsenal to persuade my fellow fishermen to use best practices, which do vary from species to species. To illustrate a legal right versus doing what is right for the sport, take this example: when I was in Hawaii recently I had the legal right to keep the 3 jacks and 2 barracuda I hooked into, but I chose to throw them back. My friend fishing with me was stunned that I would throw ANY of them back. We talked about the difference between our viewpoints and he now keeps the first fist or two and throws the rest back. In this particular example, the best practice is to keep a fish or two and toss the rest back. To judge people that do not use best practices is not the answer. I would argue that leadership by fishermen and encouraging the use of best practices has a huge impact upon how we are perceived, and the future of our sport. This sort of persuasion is also effective because most fishermen will do what it takes to help the sport.

  42. It’s AWESOME to see both shark fishing enthusiasts and shark biologists making SOLID EFFORTS to communicate to each other calmly and clearly. I think the recent “a, b, c” comments about what to do in the case of big hooked sharks is a great summary of what we’ve learned together here. At the risk of getting off topic, I suggest we take this opportunity to kick the stereotypical “scientist vs. fisherman” conflict behind in the history books. What if you used all this desperate energy to communicate ONLINE for some IN-PERSON activities? Imagine what good might come from an SFSC/RJ Dunlap Center open house, if you all shared your stories and data rather than accusations? If conservation is your joint goal, then work together against your common enemies. Join the decades of experience of individual shark fishers with the tools and data of scientists. One example that would benefit from collaboration? If scientists trained fishers to tag their sharks, fishers could couple survival data to their memory of the fight with the hooked monster. Then fishers could really say whether a revival was a “strong” one or a “poor” one, and be even better community spokespeople for conservation.

    To the scientists, I know the one example above is idealized; the satellite tags that could give us reliable survival data are expensive. (As you know several of these are designed to pop-off early if they detect no movement for several days – i.e. a dead sinker of a shark…) But this tagging cooperation is just ONE suggestion for a way to incentivize the use of science tools among non-scientists; give yourselves a chance to find other ways to get science out to the public, and for you to reap the benefits of their years of anecdotal data!

    …and any barbecue that is on the beach, with beer, and ladies 🙂

    • An in-person meeting between scientists and anglers to discuss best practices is an interesting idea, and one that we’ll consider.

      Satellite tags can cost over $5,000 each and we don’t have very many, so I expect we will not be hanging them out, but thanks for the suggestion there.

  43. I think the real issue here is the different views of what is best. It seems the ‘anglers’ have one idea of ‘good practice’ and the ‘conservation’ group has another.

    The real question is this:
    Is taking the time to measure, pose for a picture etc… really releasing the shark in the quickest manner possible?

    Has anything actually been gained from this catch in order to preserve others of it’s species?If this shark was being hooked with the intention of collecting valuable scientific data, there wouldn’t have been a “50 minute fight”. Anglers enjoy the fight, I don’t think that point will be argued. Biologists will focus on data collection with minimal stress. It’s two very different approaches to these amazing animals.

    Even if it was unintentional, this ordeal brings bad light to sport fishing for sharks. As someone from the book/desk world and the actual hands on world of sharks, there is no way to know if this animal lived or not. I’ve done years of shark observation, collection, transport and captive husbandry. What we’ve learned from real world experience is the longer the fight, the less of a survival chance a released shark has.

    • To Matt. In the heat of the moment many different things were flashing about in my mind, but the most prominent response of mine was to get this shark free and moving again. At the point that the shark was in reach I dropped my rod and reel (not caring about how messed up it would get from the drop, I ran in with pliers and freed this shark of my durable rigging. The time it took me to measure the shark was about 30 seconds. The time it took me and Dan to take pictures was about 60 seconds. Again I was only thinking about this sharks survival and left the pliers underwater (we later found them) at the time rushed the shark back into the current and walked it to help it breathe.

      “Has anyone actually gained from this catch in order to preserve others of it’s species?” I believe so. You are here on this blog making educated posts as am I and my catch has brought about the attention of many prestigious scientists and fishermen alike. This is where I show my pride. My catch is moving forward and ending battles between two same-interest groups. When goals are the same it isn’t about the journey. Both the scientists and the fishermen would like to see sharks survive and I hope that this springs action for both parties to work together.

      “Anglers enjoy the fight, I don’t think that point will be argued.” I argue this point because I put as much pressure on this shark as my line could take. My back was aching; a catch like this is more like hard, manual labor than fun.

      I tried my best to shorten the fight as best as I could and I have seen fishermen fight and lose powerful sharks that just took every inch of line off of their reel. Some sharks are absolutely unstoppable…

  44. So as a positive outcome of this discussion, would those on the board in the scientific community like to create a definitive guide to the best practice for safe release of sharks? I’m sure SFSC would be more than happy to distribute it and publicise it on the forum to help educate anglers.

    • I think DaShark summed it up in a fairly clear and concise manner:

      “a. if the ID happens early on and the shark is still green, it is probably best to release it right away irrespective of the line it will drag around and irrespective of the angler’s wish to take pictures and measurements – this especially when the species, like hammerheads, is highly vulnerable to capture stress.

      b. if the ID happens late and the animal is already exhausted, reeling it in, removing the hook etc and walking it appears to be the best solution. And yes taking pictures whilst this happens is perfectly OK.

      c. dragging the shark onto the beach is illegal”

      But I think posting some of the signs of stress would be helpful as well as posting a little bit of what to do if those signs are present. For instance, moving the shark into the current or tide, moving its head and tail to relieve lactic acid, etc. Mark posted a lot about what he and Dan did with this hammerhead on here which I think could be very helpful in giving fellow anglers a few guidelines.

    • Thanks for your excellent suggestion, blacktip. The FWC, in consultation with the scientific community, is working on just such a guide. We will be sure that it gets to SFSC members once it is complete.

    • “Why not include the SFSC members since they have the most experience in handling these animals?”

      I think its pretty clear from the comments that the shark biologists have far more experience handling these animals then the catch-and-release fishermen.

    • I agree with Alex in that the people should have say in the votes and laws regarding or affecting them. In this case the guide is being made for shark fishermen, we live in a democratic society and it would only be fair to admit both parties into the creation of such laws and guidelines. Despite anyone’s (scientist and fishermen alike) expertise and experience no matter what the subject.

  45. Hey there. Just thought that I would add to the conversation a bit. Seems that the point has been summed up nicely a few times–what to do once you notice it’s a hammerhead 50yards out???….cut the line immediately or de-hook it. It’s obviously a well-known fact that vigorous activity for 20minutes could be enough to kill a hammerhead. The fight was around an hour. Seems to me if he had just cut the line, the shark would have certainly died anyway. So why was in not better to slow it down to catch it’s breath? It’s still in deep enough water to breathe. I know that, while sitting still, he’s not exactly hyper-ventilating, but his head isn’t facing the shore, away from the current, so he’s not completely unable to breathe. Waves and current WILL push some water over it’s gills. Then the revival dance furthered the shark’s chance of survival–furthered beyond what it would have been if he had just cut the line 50yards out. A shark as tired as this one must have been would have swam about 200 yards, run out of gas, rested on the bottom, and gasped for air that never would have come, because it was no longer moving. I’ve seen it happen several times while fishing in areas when the water was clear enough to see the bottom, whereupon I followed many sharks that we released–yes, obviously I’m a shark fisherman, but I also have an MS in Pop and Con Bio. Most of the time, whether you 1.cut the line immediately- or 2.measure/tag for NOAA/photo- doesn’t matter. The shark swims off for as far as you can follow it–a few miles anyway. Who know what happens after that!? However, sometimes you get a problem fish that fights too hard and long, or that is foul hooked and dragged in backwards, etc. These sharks require special attention. If you just cut the line, they will keep swimming while slowly sinking until they hit the bottom. Bulls and lemons will rest until they recover and then swim away. Blacktips, spinners, and hammerheads usually do not. Eventually they will be on their side or belly up. However, if you take the time to resuscitate the shark–10min to an hour, depending–they swim far enough away that you eventually lose them–again, 1-3miles or so. And, again, who really knows what happens after that. However, I can tell you that every shark that is hooked and puts up any abnormally prolonged struggle, is PARTIALLY beached–and by PARTIALLY beached, I mean brought into shallow enough water to safely handle but not crush the shark, remove the hook, measure, sex, photo and tag (which is what this guy did without the tag) will die. I caught a bull shark last year and performed these steps. It was a prolonged fight because it was somehow hooked in the right pectoral fin (using an in-line circle hook). We caught the same individual 6 weeks later about a mile down the beach. Sent the info to NOAA/NMFS. Oh yea, and released it again.

    Also, a ways above in the forum it was mentioned that legalities were not in question here, but how to properly handle a shark is. I understand what you are saying, however it actually is relevant. Why has this case come to public scrutiny? because of the newly passed regulations. Why are these regulations in place? because of the obvious decline in population numbers of many species of shark all around the world. Who gets regulated because of this? not the people responsible, but inshore recreational anglers. How about we regulate what happens in federal waters instead? or at least ADDITIONALLY! It makes sense to me as an educated redneck, or to my 6-year-old cousin, or any reasonable individual, that you tackle a problem at it’s heart. As a biologist, that requires a LOT of data collection, which requires a LOT of money and time, then data analyses of all sorts–gotta love Rgui!!!!–then a determination of the best possible course of action, then budgeting to limit yourself miserably, then trying to get these recovery plans implemented–(good things are happening in Texas with golden-cheeked warblers, btw). Well this study, or rather, the collaboration of these efforts, has resulted in a terrible plan of action. In the long run, if LBSF deliberately killed every hammerhead caught, it wouldn’t really affect a healthy population. And yes, the populations are NOT healthy. But this, too, is not because of us. And if the populations are so decimated that our intentionally or accidentally killing sharks will cause the demise of a species, then the species is beyond recovery anyway. It’s not like we can round up the last 6 great hammerheads in the world, put them into a huge friggin tank, breed them, and release a new wave of them into the world like we can sometimes do with birds and mammals. With anything aquatic, it’s a numbers game. And the numbers have to be high to be sustainable. Commercial fishing both domestic AND foreign are the problem. Needless killing of sharks because they are considered by-catch, finning, and not JUST finning. Believe it or not, many sharks that are finned are also kept to eat, not just finned and thrown overboard. Can we police our federal waters better? Well we should try! Sadly–or not, depending on your political views–we can’t police the globe. Save a hammerhead here, they’ll get it in Mexico. Save a great white on the Pacific coast, they’ll get it for you in Japan! Look, it comes down to over-fishing period. Look at the technology used to catch tuna these days! They use an effing squadron of planes and choppers to locate the fish, then use many boats to cast a HUGE net around the entire school. THIS affects shark numbers. Damming rivers affects shark numbers. Long-lining adversely affects shark numbers. Shrimping affects EVERYTHING in the ecosystem–not just the poor little sea turtles that we all know so much about because they are a poster “species” or in fact, many species–from microhabitat disturbance to long term system (such as a bay) habitat degradation…pollution and climate change affect shark numbers.

    Mark did well with his catch. Who in the HELL would NOT take a picture of a fish like that if they caught it? At least he kept it in the water, facing the current, where it was NOT unable to breathe–given, it probably was unable to breathe WELL. The only thing I disagree with is trying to pull it ashore. I bet that he won’t next time! As long as you keep them in the water and work quickly, head-facing the waves/current, then revive them if need be, they will be better off than COMPLETELY beaching (making it so that at least 2/3 of their body weight is NOT supported by water) as well as simply cutting the line after a battle that has already gone too far.

    • Your statement was well written and I’m glad you are educated in both fishing and biology, your mindset is similar to mine and you have provided very good examples in comparing a human-helped resuscitated shark compared to one that would just be cut off the line after a prolonged fight like that one.

      Your example of the bull shark reminds me of my times fishing and researching juvenile bull sharks locally. I caught and released 3 or 4 of the same juveniles several times. One of which I recaptured at least 4 times (being a juvenile it still had much to learn about hooks and tasty baits of course).

      Thanks for the support.

  46. Three more things I wanted to point out just to keep good convesation going:

    1) All this talk of bringing biology and anglers together might be easier if the shark clubs forum wasn’t full of negative comments towards the biology end of it. I’ve been on both sides, and both have something to offer.

    2) Put another endangered species on the end of the line as see how the story plays out. Say it’s an endangered manatee that’s hooked. If you fought it for an hour, then posed with pics before rolling it back – is that ok to do?

    3) I don’t like the idea that ‘we released it’ assumes it a living animal afterwards. Over the past few years I’ve watched anglers from the shark club catch and pose prior to releasing a shark at the same spot by RSMAS, only to have the body wash up dead within the next 24 hours. Two that jump to mind are a large bull that was mistreated (as seen wtih my own eyes) and a pregnant black tip that I did a necropsy on. To go along with this, last week a member of the shark club was caught trespassing on private property just down from where this happend and tried to claim it was ok because of his affiliation with the club. Not sure if it was the same specific group of anglers or not, but it again that behavior brings a negative light to the club. That particular group was seen leaving bull sharks on shore to die claiming they were going to be trophies’.

    • At Matt. Your statement is true for 1), but may the same go with the scientists towards making friends and not enemies with themselves and with the anglers.

      2) If I some how accidentally found a manatee tangled in some line or with a hook in it, I would try to the best of my ability to save that animal. During this process if somebody took a picture of me I would be glad to share a picture of a manatee I saved.

      3) I honestly do have full faith in the survival of this animal and made an educated guess on the matter. This article assumed just the opposite (as it curtails in the title).

      About fishermen’s affiliation with the Shark club… this is not always correct information, we have people that claim they are a part of the club but have no intention other than hurting its reputation. This has happened several times, just as some kids caught and left a blacktip shark on a beach in West Palm Beach and blamed it on us. I thought I could say I knew all the fishermen that would fish in that area, but apparently I do not because none of the fishermen I know that fish that area would pull any kind of a malice act such as leaving a shark to die on the beach. I wish that all people fishing for sharks had a common decency with the animals that they catch; but unfortunately as you may have witnessed (even though such acts sound absurd to me) there will always be the good and the bad and no matter how much good is done it is only that small amount of bad to set off the balance again.

  47. I know this is a bit off topic, but at this point in the thread I thought it might be good to share some experiences I’ve had that non-anglers might not be aware of. Here is one manner in which shark fishermen do something good for sharks they have caught and landed:. they will repair damage done to the shark by others. I once caught a shark that had a commercial long-line hook/leader in its mouth and the line from the hook had wrapped around the shark and was digging into its flesh and thus creating an wound that would never heal. After removing my hook and the other hook, I removed the line from the shark’s girth. Had it not been taken out, it would have eventually killed the shark. I know that when fishermen come across similar situations, they almost invariable fix the animal up before sending it back.

    • I have seen personally a lemon shark tangled up in braided fishing line but the line was fairly fresh and the shark did not tangle up in it any my friend cut it off and freed the lemon shark. I actually talked to a world renown shark researcher (who deals with mainly great whites, tigers, and bulls) and he also described to me the shark’s likelihood of spiraling until it is tangled and incapable of motion and told me that 50 yards of line is still way too much to let the shark trail behind. I wont mention names or be close-minded, I understand other opinions but I was just sharing a very prestigious one with you people on here.

  48. mark did everything he could to keep that shark alive. I would like to know why you are making a big deal about this saying it is illegal to measure and take pictures when i see people measuring and taking pictures of tarpon which are not allowed to be kept (unless having a tag) or giant jewfish or many of the other protected species. I believe you are trying to put a negative light on LBSF when the real issue is the longliners who kill hundreds if not thousands of sharks everyday that they are out.

  49. I am very interested in the information presented in Austin’s presentation on shark stress. The slide with the graphs of CO2 and lactate doesn’t appear to have data for time zero. I am curious what was the time zero values for CO2 and lactate? What is considered baseline? I am assuming these are all values from different specimens. Were they all of similar sizes? water temperatures?

    Given the low r-square values and shallow slopes (particularly for lactate) it would be hard to say there is a strong relationship with fight time and build up of the blood parameters. Why was a non-linear trend line used for mokarran CO2 data? What is the threshold levels for mortality? What were the size ranges of animals tagged with the sat tags? (glad to see you have used them). Sorry for the many questions. I am in manuscript reviewer mode right now.

    Obviously, it is hard to present a lot of data in a 5 minutes speed talk but I would be interested in seeing more info on this.

    I am aware that sphyrna lewini and mokarran have high hooking mortality as seen in studies on longline fishing by colleagues. But I would just caution referencing one slide (in the present discussion) as evidence that this specimen was destine for death.

    And of course I agree that post-release mortality needs further research and is becoming an important variable in fisheries modeling.

    Cheers.

    • The more I read these comments and article the more I am seeing what I would consider miss-information or overstating of opinions.

      e.g. “species, not individuals, show the most obvious differences with how they respond to stress.”

      While I agree species will likely show differences based on their morphology, intra-species variation in size certainly could impact the amount of stress received or how the fish handles stress. Swimming efficiency usually increases with fish size so a larger animal may not be as physiologically impacted as a smaller one would.

      e.g. ““Hammerheads have very small mouths, which limits the amount of oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide release” is not entirely accurate because most sharks do not actually use their mouths for breathing because they can get their oxygen with their mouths closed. “”

      As I am sure some have pointed out, many sharks do not have large spiracles or naries that connect to the buccal cavity. Thus the only way for many species of shark to breath so to speak is to allow water to enter their mouths. So the small mouth hypothesis does hold some water (pun intended).

      The fact of the matter is that without following the animal after release we can’t know if it died. Thus the use of “(and likely kills)” in the title of this post is premature at best and biased at worse. I would encourage a more conservative approach to the conservative rhetoric. Let the data speak for themselves.

      Happy Friday!
      Cheers.
      -Andrew

    • Hi, Andrew, and thanks for commenting.

      I was not heavily involved in the stress physiology project, as it had largely concluded by the time I arrived, but I’ll answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.

      A range of sizes were sampled, and body size was not a statistically significant correlate in the model. Different species are the best predictors of the variation in stress response, which was why Austin said that “species, not individuals, show the most obvious differences with how they respond to stress”. Obviously there is some individual variation, but not nearly as much as there is species-level variation.

      This particular animal was not followed after release, but based on Austin’s study of this exact situation (how great hammerheads and other local species respond to fishing stress), in his expert opinion, an animal exposed to this level of stress likely would not survive. This is supported by his data which showed that other animals exposed to similar (and in some cases, even less) stress from fishing did not survive. We can’t know exactly what happened to this individual shark, as we didn’t follow it, which is why I said “likely kills) and not “kills”. I think it’s a completely reasonable extrapolation to take data showing how great hammerheads respond to fishing stress and use it to answer a question of how a great hammerhead likely responding to similar stress.

  50. The author of this article clearly has no knowledge of how potentially lethal cutting the line can be to the shark’s health. Studies have showed that fish (pelagics such as swordfish and tuna) that trail a length of line greater than their body length are at severe risk of tail-wrapping the line, and subsequently drowning. The same would happen to any shark trailing a length of line.

    Mark handled his catch and RELEASE of the hammerhead in the best possible way for the health of the shark. Anglers cannot control what fish picks up their bait. Congrats Mark on the hammerhead again

    • Santosh, can you please provide a link to the studies you are referencing?

      Trailing a long length of fishing line can potentially be lethal for certain animals (this occurs in rare cases that Mark and a few others have pointed out), but fighting for more than 20 minutes builds up enough carbon dioxide and lactic acid to be almost certainly lethal.

  51. I found this very interesting. How is that, as soon as someone ask specific technical questions about the mentioned report aka example that all these bashing is about – all of the sudden – everyone just gets quiet. I wonder why?
    No data to back that up?
    P.S. I also had one comment deleted – YOU KNOW THE LEGALITY OF YOUR POST RIGHT?
    The Copyright Infringement laws can be a… pain in the back.

    • Well, you know what they say, when logic and reason aren’t on your side, try to use the law to silence truth.

      But, since you asked so nicely, your comment was removed because it was off-topic, distracted from the discussion, and was demonstrably false. I suggest you familiarize yourself with US copyright laws regarding fair use in the reporting of news before you try to waste our time with ill-conceived libel.

      But thank you for the accusation, as it only serves to prove that you have nothing substantive to contribute.

  52. For those looking for more technical info, it’s out there to find. Google is your friend. I had the advantage of working with several species of elasmos in controlled settings, and using those healthy animals to do a lot of baseline blood draws for various studies in the past. One of them was specific to measuring blood pH during normal vs stressful settings and looking at the ability of the shark to recover from a low pH after a struggle.

    And just for informations sake: If you find a manatee in distress in FL waters, you are to call FWC’s manatee hotline. The public is not to try and attempt anything with them other than watching. Untrained ‘helping’ can make things worse very quickly.

  53. Southern Fried Scientist wrote: “Well, you know what they say, when logic and reason aren’t on your side, try to use the law to silence truth.

    But, since you asked so nicely, your comment was removed because it was off-topic, distracted from the discussion, and was demonstrably false. I suggest you familiarize yourself with US copyright laws regarding fair use in the reporting of news before you try to waste our time with ill-conceived libel.

    But thank you for the accusation, as it only serves to prove that you have nothing substantive to contribute.”
    Last time that i check – full reproduction OR partial reproduction someone’s work, which includes, forum posts, WITHOUT verbal/written consent of that author IS illegal under copyright infringement laws.
    How do you think that i protect ALL my websites MR Southern Fried Scientist? Your luck so far is that William is soft regarding this subject. When i’ll gonna report a catch an release on my website, under legal condition, finding reproduced content from my own website – won’t make me to be as soft as William is. That’s a promise.

    • Look, I get it, you like to bully people into submission when you have nothing relevant to contribute, and I’m sure that sometimes works. But I don’t cave to tedious bullshit, and I don’t humor people who use legal threats to silence legitimate commentary. You’re wrong. Clearly, unambiguously, demonstrably wrong. You’re so ill-informed that you can’t even identify the actual copyright holder (hint: it’s not the forum that hosts content, nor the owner of said forum). But just to make it easier for you, here’s is Section 17 USC 107 of the US copyright act:

      Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 17 U.S.C. § 106 and 17 U.S.C. § 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

      the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

      the nature of the copyrighted work;

      the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;
      and
      the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

      The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

      I can’t, at this point, tell if you’re an anti-fishing troll trying to make real, honest anglers look bad, or just an absolutely horrible representative of the sport. If the later is the case, than you are doing a disservice to people like Mark and Alex who have done a tremendous job arguing passionately and convincingly for their sport. If it is the former, then you can kindly fuck off.

      Actually, either way, you’re done here. You’ve contributed nothing to the conversation.

  54. At several times throughout this discussion, Mark has repeated that is is confident that the shark is still alive. I’m very curious about what this confidence is based on other than noting that the shark swam away.

    Mark, you are clearly an experienced angler who cares about the ocean. However, even the most experienced and thoughtful fishermen cannot possibly know what happens to a shark after it swims away unless it washes up dead on a beach or you tag it and someone recaptures it. That’s not a reflection on your abilities as a fishermen, it’s a question of having the right tools for a job. Fishing gear is designed to catch fish, not to track them after they swim away.

    Austin’s study focused specifically on the question of what happens to sharks after they fight fishing gear. He measured the levels of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in their blood, and he tracked them with satellite tags. Austin can (and does) know what is likely to happen to sharks of certain species after they swim away because he applied the correct tools to answer this question.

    His results are clear. Great hammerheads are particularly vulnerable to fishing capture stress. After fights as short as 20 minutes, great hammerheads can reach potentially lethal levels of carbon dioxide and lactic acid in their blood. They rarely recover from this stress events, unlike many other species of sharks which can recover. Satellite tracking data shows that even if great hammerheads swim away from where they were caught, they often die.

    • My confidence comes from two events that I have seen. One is,(from the pier) a tiger shark ate a bait on a small rod and the inexperienced angler lost the shark, Within 30 minutes that tiger shark came back and ate my bait, I got the shark straight up and down and popped my 60lb mono so that the shark only trailed 4ft of light wire and a small hook in the lip. A little over a week later one of my friends went to the pier and caught the exact same shark.

      The other event happened on the same pier, there had been a very large (12-13ft) hammerhead shark hanging around the pier, eating blacktip sharks, tarpon, and sting rays, as well as jacks, bonitas, and other fish brought up on fishermens lines. One of the first days the hammerhead got hooked on several light tackle reels and acted like it hadn’t even been hooked. a week later the hammer got hooked on heavier tackle, the angler lost it, but the hammer was still hanging around the pier. 2 weeks later one of my friends caught the hammer and popped off the line leaving a 6ft wire trailing behind its mouth. The hammer still stayed around for another week or two taking advantage of the rich food supply and then left bloated and ready to pup out. This hammer stayed around the pier for 2 months.

      This hammer was hooked several times and caught once, and the time it was lost was over an hour fight and the time it was caught was over an hour fight. This shark showed no signs of dying anytime soon. Not every individual is the same as the whole. Every fight is different and some sharks are more used to being hooked than others. This is a very important variable in which Austin’s research has a limitation. For example, study a group of localized sharks completely away from civilization and a group of the same species in an area of many fishermen. After a shark has been caught and released, it is going to have memory of the event and will react differently than a shark that has never been caught before.

  55. Another thing I would like to mention about the research and data is that (I assume) Austin’s research is based on sharks caught via boat. The fights from boat vs. land are exceptionally different. For example, I was discussing the difference in fight between a bull shark caught on a boat vs. a beach with one of the best captains out of the Boynton area. From a boat the bull shark will dive down and stay towards the bottom and cannot be muscled up with the line and the boat has to be driven into shallow waters to get the shark to rise. From land in most areas the water is already shallow so the shark is not using energy to dive down, thus the fight is probably less stressful to the shark as it is not spending as much energy.

    All research and data will have limiting factors and it is important to see those, especially when dealing with such complex matters as stress analysis.

  56. “Trash fish” prejudice is so ridiculous. It’s the most heartless thing in the world for humans to kill an animal just because they themselves don’t like it. To add suffering and cruelty to the deed is adding insult to injury, literally. I guess they think they know better than nature (or the Creator) which animals are “good” and which are “bad.” If if is native to the ecosystem, it plays a part in it, whether these numbskulls realize it or not.

    The news of the hammerhead literally sickens me. In the video I saw, the shark indeed looked like it might be pregnant. The largest fish of a species are the most productive and the most successful of their kind. They are the very last individuals a true sportsman would want to kill. This female shark was likely 35-40 years old or more. Sad to see her go that way. Maybe the guy can hunt pregnant female elephants next.

    • From what do you base your comments? A hammerhead shark is not a trash fish and I did not kill this shark nor did I have the intention to do so. Nor was there a video of this shark. I reckon you are mistaken.

      …yet another person unappreciative of the efforts I went through to get the shark to swim off.

  57. Andrew, I think this is an good and realistic summary.

    Hey David, I am trying to find more on Austin’s study on post release survivorship but it doesn’t appear to be published. I am interested specifically in fight time and blood chemistry vs. mortality for the great hammerhead that has been referred to several times in the comments. Any idea if this information is available yet?

    • ^ Was supposed to be in reply to:

      “At the risk of putting words in my denticulous co-blogger’s mouth, I think the major take-home messages of this debate (at least as it pertains to how to deal with a hooked hammerhead) are:

      A. Some sharks, particularly hammerheads, have a lower survival ratio following prolonged (or even relatively short) fights.

      B. In cases where a hammerhead is positively identified early in the catch process, the angler needs to make a judgement call about whether or not to cut the line long, knowing that every extra minute spent trying to reel in the line decreases the chance of the hammerheads survival, but that trailing line may also be detrimental to survival.

      C. In cases when a hammerhead is identified late in the catch process, after a prolonged fight has already taken place, the methods employed by Mark to walk and revive the shark before release are preferred, but the shark should not be taken out of the water and extra time should not be wasted measuring and posing for pictures (but there ain’t nothing wrong with getting a few snapshots during the revival process, provided it doesn’t detract from getting the animal back in the water).

      Does that about sum it up?”

  58. I think that there is one common thread, all involved have a great concern for these wonderful animals.

    There is one salient point that is missed here. In most cases when shark fishing, the angler uses a wire leader of some sort usually 5 to 2o feet long. The end of this leader is usually crimped to a swivel and then attached to a top shot, meaning a stronger test line, which is then attached to a lower test line, sometimes braided line. It is common to have a spider weight attached to a clasp at the point where the wire leader meets the top shot. This weight can be quite large with legs sticking out from the side.

    The concept that there is just a length of line dragging behind a shark and that it most likely won’t get caught up on something is “possibly” not accurate. I would think that if I were catching this shark, Or another large endangered shark, I would most likely get the shark in as close as I could so as to cut the fish off at the leader. If not, this fish would in fast be dragging a small anchor around until the hook rusted out.