11-foot hammerhead shark washed up on South Florida beach – CBS Tampa

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) – Beachgoers visiting Pompano Beach found the carcass of an 11-foot hammerhead shark on April 6.

A team of scientists from the American Shark Conservancy took samples and identified the shark as a female great hammerhead, after moving the body away from onlookers.

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Hannah Medd, a conservation scientist and founder of the American Shark Conservancy, told CNN that she and her team took the shark’s measurements as well as fin clippings to analyze its DNA and muscle tissue for biopsies. The female was pregnant and weighed about 500 pounds, she said.

The Nature Conservancy, which has a license to sample protected species such as the hammerhead shark, was alerted to the animal by the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, which searches for turtle nests on beaches. A member of the team had found the body with a hook in his 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 susceptible to stress,” he said.

Medd explained that a small community of recreational fishermen look for sharks to catch and release, which is legal in Florida, although sharks cannot be caught. But the stress of catching and releasing, combined with injuries from fishing hooks, can sometimes lead to death.

“This is a pretty rare event,” Medd said. “We get a call for maybe one to four a year [hammerheads] They have been washed again.”

She said her team has advocated for better catch-and-release practices, such as using stronger fishing gear, which reduces the “fight time” during which sharks fight fishermen. Less fighting time means less chance of injury or mortality.

“These sharks are really good at fighting,” he said. “That’s why fishermen like to catch them, it’s exciting.”

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He added that “because they’re banned, we usually can’t get samples, so in this case it was an unfortunate but good opportunity for us to learn more about a pretty 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 beachgoers had emotional reactions to the dramatic sight of the shark washed up on shore. Medd said she saw some witnesses cry.

“You would never want to see an animal that large lying on the beach,” Pompano Beach resident Kevin Nosal said, according to WPLG. “This is 11 feet long and weighs over 500 pounds. It’s a female, so it’s always sad when a female walks by.”

Great hammerhead sharks are common in Florida’s coastal waters, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They can reach up to 18 feet and live for more than 20 years. The fish are sometimes targeted by commercial longline fishermen for their fins, the commission says.

As a predator, hammerhead sharks exert an important influence on ocean ecosystems, according to Medd. “They are just one very important piece of that food web that keeps our oceans healthy.”

“Even people who enjoy a day at the beach like to see healthy oceans and coastlines,” he said. “Sharks are actually a part of that.”

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