Shark shooter identified, but has he broken any laws?

Earlier this month, a video of fishermen shooting a rifle at sharks appeared on YouTube and caused quite a stir. The video has since been removed, but not before shark conservation activists  made copies (warning: the videos are extremely graphic and have inappropriate language). Apparently some computers can access the site with the videos and others can’t, if you can’t access the site and want a copy of the videos just let me know. All images in this post are screenshots from the video.

The Global Shark Initiative posted the video on it’s website and asked members to help identify the fishermen. They reported earlier this week that he had been positively identified as a Key Largo, FL based fisherman who allegedly had a history of similar behavior (including killing a shark with a satellite tag and attempting to extort the researchers who owned the tag) .

A Global Shark Initiative leader, as well as many other concerned citizens and groups, contacted a local shark scientist. That scientist provided the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) with a copy of the video.

At first glance, the fisherman is apparently guilty of violating several laws, including:

1) Catching lemon sharks (illegal in Florida waters),

2) Catching a smalltooth sawfish (a Federally listed endangered species),

3) Dismembering sharks at sea (illegal under the Shark Conservation Act).

4) Catching a great hammerhead (illegal under ICCAT policies)

5) Shooting a rifle at sharks

In response to the video, the FWC has determined that the fishermen isn’t guilty of breaking any laws. Catching lemon sharks is illegal in Florida waters, but not in Federal waters where this incident allegedly took place. There is no proof that he killed the sawfish (the video only shows him catching it). ICCAT regulations deal with hammerheads as bycatch from the tuna fishery and not directed catch. Shooting sharks to calm them down is apparently a common commercial fishing practice and isn’t illegal.

There is a bit of good news, however. Though he didn’t do anything technically illegal, the negative publicity associated with these videos has resulted in the fisherman losing his job. The company that he used to work for has a long record of working with fisheries observers and managers and they were horrified by the behavior of one of their employees.

The FWC and NOAA (who granted this fisherman a permit to catch sandbar sharks as part of the research fishery, which is what they were doing when the other incidents occurred) are investigating this situation further. I’ll continue to follow this story and will alert you if any charges are filed.


  1. Sam · March 31, 2011

    It’s like I keep saying. If there was a law against being a huge dick, he’d definitely be going to prison.

    What about the “Dismembering sharks at sea” charge? The various laws broken that you mentioned were numerous enough that at least a few of them should stick. You know, in an ideal world.

    • WhySharksMatter · March 31, 2011

      To the best of my knowledge, that charge is still being investigated.

  2. Karen Dove · March 31, 2011

    It’s unfortunate that this occurred, but more unfortunate that there are no laws within federal waters that made this illegal. All we can do is push to have laws created in federal waters that regulate cruelty to sharks. While it’s great that individual states are slowly recognizing the importance of sharks, they need to be protected in the entire EEZ. If the federal government backed shark protection, perhaps other countries and our own citizens would realize how important they are to protect.

  3. Geoff Tapson · March 31, 2011

    I still believe that all creatures of the deep are to be left alone!!!! Leave them in peace, surely the scientists have enough data on these creatures. You want to know more about them??? then swim with them and research them that way, don’t shoot them and then pull them out of their habitat……ahhhhhh

    • WhySharksMatter · March 31, 2011

      This man was not a scientist. What are you talking about, friend?

  4. Philippe De Meersman · March 31, 2011

    [commentaire du moderateur, contenu violent supprime]

  5. Ryan Lancaster · March 31, 2011

    That is just horrible. What did he gain by doing this? What a jerkoff. Could you please send me the video to my e-mail. Thanks and thanks for keeping us informed.

  6. jeanne vdl · March 31, 2011

    ugh…these people hey, make me sick..i wonder if he just finds it did he possibly benefit from this..

  7. Maegan Paloma · March 31, 2011

    The nerve of that guy.

    I’d like a copy of the video, please.

  8. Margie Marr · March 31, 2011

    Please leave the deep world alone, it is their world,not yours or ours I have the misfortune of saying.
    Be fortunate that you all live on land,I would say ,not so many preditures,unless you are stupid,where in fact,there is always some one to help you if needed.
    Is´nt there enough crulity on land with all our animals without having to be inhumane with those whom live in the sea,Every living thing that our God made,deserves to live.
    I understand the word survival,and that nature must take it,s course,I strongly believe that ,that is survival of all creatures great or small.To KILL for just fun is extremely inhumane crulity.
    I can not write more tonight,of how I personally feel and believe as I feel UNHUMAINE myself towards those whom KILL and very inhumanely kill animal,mammels,and human beins for fun war or not needed food everything else has no mortality PLEASE GOD GIVE ME STRENGTH ICAN NOT FORGIVE THOSE THAT KILL FOR FUN:EVERYTHING YOU CREATED DESERVES AGOOD CHANCE TO LIVE and survive.

    If you agree or disagree with me please contact me at the above address

  9. David · March 31, 2011

    Doing this for entertainment? The day that killing animals for “fun” is banned will be a huge + for the entire earth. The only reason they would attack us is if they feel threatened or in the case of sharks–mistaking humans for their natural prey. They are not our enemies as the movie Jaws has put it.

    [comment moderated, violent content removed]

    How many sharks do we kill per year? 80-100 million. How many humans die each year from shark attacks? around 5 and 10+ non-fatal attacks. Who’s the real enemy? HMM?

  10. The Global Shark Initiative · March 31, 2011

    As we think it is important that people are aware of the unacceptable behaviour of this man, we prepared this link from wich the video can be downloaded:

  11. Ryan · March 31, 2011

    Please send me the video.

    [comment moderated, violent content removed]

  12. Gerardo · March 31, 2011

    [comment moderated, violent content removed]

  13. Claire · March 31, 2011

    Ugh. Just…ugh.

  14. Shane · March 31, 2011

    Hi saw this video on youtube and was absolutely revolted.

    [comment moderated, violent content removed]

  15. Southern Fried Scientist · March 31, 2011

    Folks, I’m closing the comment thread on this post and applying heavy moderation to several comments.

    No matter how deplorable this one individual’s actions may be, incitations to violence are uncalled for. The point is to show people that this behavior is unacceptable in a society that values ethics and animal welfare, not to prove that the rest of us are just as callous and base. Those who think that the response to torture and brutality should be more brutality should take a moment to reflect on why they think they’re any more justified than the man in question.

Comments are closed.