A team of scientists from the American Shark Conservancy took samples and identified the shark as a female great hammerhead shark, after taking the body away from onlookers.
Hannah Medd, conservation scientist and founder of the American Shark Conservancy, told CNN she and her team took the shark’s measurements as well as fin clippings to test its DNA and muscle tissue for biopsies. . The female was pregnant and weighed around 500 pounds, she said.
The Conservancy, which holds a license to sample protected species like the hammerhead shark, was alerted to the animal by the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, which studies turtle nests on beaches. A crew member had encountered the body with a hook in its mouth. The “specific type of hook usually indicates someone was fishing for a large animal like a hammerhead shark,” Medd said.
“This species, in particular, is quite sensitive to stress,” she said.
Medd explained that a small recreational fishing community targets sharks for catch and release, which is legal in Florida, although sharks cannot be harvested. But the stress of catching and releasing, combined with injuries from hooks, can sometimes lead to death.
“It’s a pretty rare occurrence,” Medd said. “We get a call for maybe one to four a year [hammerheads] who have receded.”
She said her team has advocated for best catch-and-release practices, such as using stronger fishing gear, which reduces the “fight time” the sharks struggle with. fisherman. Less combat time means less risk of injury or death.
“These sharks are really good at fighting,” she said. “That’s why anglers love to catch them – it’s exciting.”
She added that “because they’re banned, we usually can’t get samples, so in this case it was an unfortunate but good chance for us to find out more about a fairly important species.”
After the biologists took their samples, a nearby construction crew dug a hole and buried the shark on the beach, Medd said.
Some swimmers had emotional reactions to the dramatic sight of the shark washing up on shore. Medd said he saw witnesses crying.
“You never want to see an animal that big lying on the beach,” said Pompano Beach resident Kevin Nosal, according to WPLG. “She’s 11 feet long and over 500 pounds. She’s a female, so it’s always sad when a female passes by.”
As predators, hammerhead sharks exert a significant influence on ocean ecosystems, according to Medd. “They are just one very important part of this food web that keeps our oceans healthy.”
“Even people who spend a day at the beach like to see healthy oceans and coasts,” she said. “Sharks are actually one of them.”