Monday, May 18, 2009

Catching a Record Great Hammerhead Shark: a tragic loss . . . just for a record

One more shark story, and this one ties into the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative I wrote about last Thursday. Early this month, Florida sport fisherman Bucky Dennis reeled in a world-record Great Hammerhead. At 1,060 pounds, it far surpassed the previous record of 620 pounds. While Mr. Dennis feels quite proud of his catch (he has been hoping to set a new record for some time), he has been heavily criticized from a variety of sources, including other fishermen (Read St. Petersburg Times article.).

This was a tragedy all around. Due to it's size, Dennis had no way of weighing it unless he brought it back to the marina where it could be hoisted and weighed - and that meant killing it.

Quoting the St. Petersburg Times, "When fishing guide Bucky Dennis reeled in the giant hammerhead on May 7, he knew there was no way to weigh the shark without killing it. 'I just had to do it,' Dennis said of his decision to claim a world record."

So his desire for a world record superceded all other considerations. This time of year, large hammerheads are typically pregnant females but we'll never know whether this one was carrying pups. Dennis offered the shark to the Mote Marine Laboratory, but Dr. Bob Hueter wisely passed so as to avoid setting a precedent that would send more fishermen out to catch large sharks.

In the end, all Dennis had for his conquest was a handful of teeth and some meat he gave away. Then this magnificent animal, once a tribute to enduring survival and longevity, was dumped back into the sea.

Could the Shark-Free Marinas Initiative have acted as a deterent if local marinas were supporters of the initiative? With this fisherman, perhaps and perhaps not, since he was so fixated on gaining a few lines in a sportfishing journal somewhere. But it certainly would not have hurt and perhaps will compel other fishermen to think twice.

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