Another needless killing of an engangered hammerhead in Palm Beach, Florida

Posted on August 26, 2010
Written by: Jim Abernethy

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Today I received a report of another needless killing of an endangered animal at the Sailfish Marina.

When I got to the marina, I found a 9 foot female scalloped hammerhead shark -- possibly pregnant -- laying abandoned on the dock in the sun.  The dock attendants informed me that this shark -- this endangered animal -- was brought in by the Capt. John Krohn on the Boomerang, a 43 foot sport fishing vessel.  Capt. Krohn had already left the marina.

Sharks like this scalloped hammerhead have existed in our oceans for hundreds of millions of years and are absolutely vital to maintaining the health of our oceans.  But hammerheads have declined by over 80%  in the past thirty years.**

They're being driven closer and closer to extinction because of commercial fishing to their fins, and also because of careless and wasteful practices like what we've seen today.   Sharks don't spawn millions of eggs like other fish -- they give birth to a small number of live young, like mammals.  This makes them extremely vulnerable and when their populations are depleted, they can't recover. 

What would compel someone to kill this beautiful and endangered animal for absolutely no good reason?

  • Scalloped hammerheads are endangered animals.  The are listed on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species as "Endangered" which is defined as "Very High Risk of Extinction" (http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/39385/0)

    Killing a large, potentially pregnant, mature female like this one is especially damaging.  There are only a small number of these mature females left and they should be protected in order to sustain and rebuild the current population.
  • Sharks of this size are not suitable for consumption because of the high levels of mercury and other toxins that accumulate in their bodies.  The FL Dept of Health publication "Your Guide to Eating Fish Caught in Florida" states with regard to sharks:
    • All coastal waters, Shark, all species 43 inches or more: Do Not Eat

      It's obvious that no one intended to eat this shark anyway since Capt. Krohn of the Boomerang left the dead shark lying in the sun on the dock.
  • It's also illegal to kill a fish that you are not going to eat. This is called willful and wonton waste of wildlife and it is prohibited under Florida statute.

    Fl Statues 379.2421
    Fishers and equipment; regulation.
    — (4) RETURN OF FISH TO WATER.—All persons taking food fish from any of the waters of this state by use of seines, nets, or other fishing devices and not using any of such fish because of size or other reasons shall immediately release and return such fish alive to the water from which taken and no such fish may be placed or deposited on any bank, shore, beach or other place out of the water.
    What would compel someone to kill this beautiful and endangered animal for absolutely no good reason? 
  • The reason might be to push a potential sale with a taxidermist for a possible mount as a trophy for the wall. It is a well known fact that the captains get a commission from the taxidermist for the sale. The dead animal is often used as a lever to push the sale so it will not be viewed as a total waste! It is also well known fact that taxiidermist no longer use any part of the animal. They just measure it and make a fiberglass replica from previous mounts!

They're being driven closer and closer to extinction because of commercial fishing to their fins, and also because of careless and wasteful practices like what we've seen today. Sharks don't spawn millions of eggs like other fish -- they give birth to a small number of live young, like mammals.  This makes them extremely vulnerable and when their populations are depleted, they can't recover.

Hammerheads need to have legal protection from all fishing.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is going to consider adding hammerheads to the Prohibited Species List this year.  I'm thrilled that they've recognized the need to protect these animals and hope to see this regulation passed soon.

But Florida is just one state.  These animals desperately need Federal and International protection as well!!

All photos by Jim Abernethy.

References

** Stock Assessment of Scalloped Hammerheads in the Western North Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico – Christopher G. Hayes, Yan Jiao, Enric Cortes – North American Journal of Fisheries Management – 29:1406-1417, 2009.  “The present study is the first species-specific assessment of scalloped hammerheads in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and it synthesizes all available data.” P. 1407

"The level of population depletion (relative to 1981) found in the present study (83%) is similar to that found by Baum et al. (2003), who estimated an 89% decline in the western North Atlantic Ocean population of scalloped hammerheads during 1986–2000, based on pelagic longline logbook data.” P. 1415

 

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