Usually, beachgoers keep a sharp eye for fins in the water, but in Florida, beachgoers didn’t have to search very hard when a hammerhead shark washed ashore.
On April 6 on Pompano beach, heads turned towards the shoreline when a massive, 11-foot, 500-pound female hammerhead shark popped up on the sand.
According to Hannah Medd, founder of the American Shark Conservancy, the terrifying yet tragic event doesn’t happen very often in the U.S.
“We get a call for maybe one to four a year that have washed back up,” Medd told CNN.
To make matters worse, the Florida shark was actually a great hammerhead, the largest of the hammerhead sharks. This subspecies is also critically endangered. Some studies even claim that there are as few as 200 great hammerhead sharks left in the entire world.
And that’s not all. The beautiful beast was also pregnant with 23 pups at the time of its death. Granted, as with all sharks, the largest pup in the litter would devour the remainder of the siblings within the womb before exiting. However, the presence of such a large litter in the mama shark only seemed to add to the devastation of the incident.
Florida Scientists Plan on Taking Samples Before Burying Hammerhead Shark
Based on what Medd and fellow scientists observed, it appears that the female hammerhead passed away following a brush with a couple of fishermen.
“There is some fishing line in her gills,” Medd told Local 10 News. “And from earlier pictures, there was a large hook in the side of her mouth.”
Medd estimated that an angler probably caught and released the hammerhead the previous evening. Unfortunately, great hammerheads don’t react well during these situations. They tend to experience an extreme amount of stress, even after release.
The Florida scientist continued, “It [the death] may have to do with post-release mortality, which means the species in particular gets a little stressed out when it’s caught, it fights really hard.”
Because of this, the massive fish succumbed to shock and eventually washed up on the Florida beach.
Despite the tragedy of the situation, there is some good that will come from the Florida shark’s death. Medd explained that once they safely move the hammerhead away from the shoreline, they will take samples to further study and understand the species. Then they’ll give the marine animal a proper burial.
“You never want to see an animal this big laying on the beach,” lamented Pompano Beach resident Kevin Nosal. “It’s a female, so it’s always sad when a female passes.”
It is likely that scientists did not want the hammerhead to wash back into the waters for fear that the carcass would attract other predators.