HomeOutdoorsNewsDiver filmed freeing nurse shark from fishing gear in Florida

Diver filmed freeing nurse shark from fishing gear in Florida

by Caitlin Berard
Nurse shark similar to individual encountered by scuba diver
(Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

While diving off the coast of Destin, Florida, a scuba instructor encountered a nurse shark trapped in an artificial reef system and immediately set to work freeing the distressed bottom-dweller.

Scuba instructor Tazz Felde wasn’t the first to find the fearful fish. Instead, he was informed of the shark by another pair of divers.

They, too, had attempted to free it from what would eventually become a deadly situation. After a lengthy effort, however, they gave up the fight. The shark was simply fighting them too hard to safely save it.

Knowing he was the man for the job, Felde leapt into action, diving 20 feet underwater to seek out the panicky predator. And as he swam toward the manmade reef deep in the sea, he saw the nurse shark. “It was between 6 and 7 feet,” he told FOX Weather. “It was a pretty big shark.”

Unfortunately, it immediately became clear that the shark would never be able to escape on its own. “The area that they described where the shark was, it was there,” Felde said. “There were a lot of monofilaments strung all over the reef. The shark was right on the bottom, and you can see it only move its head just a little.”

Though the shark was fighting as hard as it could, the enormous hook and 120-pound test line’s steel leader pulling against its mouth left it unable to swim more than a few inches from the reef.

Producing a pair of pliers, Felde and another diver set to work freeing the shark. But just as the other divers had warned, the rescue mission was going to be no easy task. The terrified nurse shark pulled against the hook and the diver’s hands, fighting with all its might to escape.

Eventually, the diver managed to successfully snip the steel leader attached to the hook. Before he could even attempt to remove the hook from the shark’s mouth, however, the shark bolted into the murky water and out of sight – taking the diver’s pliers along with it.

With enough time, the hook may rust and fall out of the nurse shark’s cheek. In the meantime, it’s at least free to swim and hunt, it will just have a little jewelry while doing so.

“I just wanted to make sure that the thing was going to be free and live the rest of his life happy,” Felde said. “Just watching it swim away was the reward.”

For the most part, nurse sharks are completely harmless to humans, despite their large size. That said, they’re still sharks. Their strong jaws are filled with rows of small, serrated teeth used for crushing their favorite foods: crabs, snails, urchins, and lobsters (though they will snack on squishier prey like stingrays and octopuses when the mood arises).

And like any animal, they’re far more likely to attack when in distress. As this one was absolutely panic-stricken, the divers’ chances of suffering a bite were much higher. Thankfully, however, both the divers and the shark escaped the incident unharmed.