Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Killing sharks for the jaws

Albert Kok
Bull shark in the Bahamas. The species lives throughout the world in warm waters.

Folks in Venice were incensed recently about the mutilated 6-foot bull shark carcass found on the beach under the Venice Fishing Pier. It had been killed for its jaws.

“It’s a needless slaughter. Was this really necessary for a jaw?” asked Ron Salisbury, a local bait shop employee, in a report in the Venice Gondolier Sun.

“This is akin to removing shark fins for soup,” beachgoer Ron Leverish wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper.

A state wildlife official, however, said fishing bull sharks is not banned.

Bull sharks are found throughout the world. They can be unpredictably aggressive. They are among the most dangerous to humans because they tend to live in shallow water. Great white sharks and tiger sharks are also dangerous to humans but typically people encounter them in deeper water, Jaws notwithstanding.

Bull sharks may not be the most beloved species in the world but they certainly command attention. In Africa, bulls are known as Zambezi sharks and in Lake Nicaragua they are known as Nicaragua sharks. In India they're called Ganges River shark.

Despite their reputation for irascibility, bull sharks seem to draw sympathy when they're on the losing end of an encounter with humans. Witness the incident in May last year when two young men caught 9-foot pregnant female off the Pier in St. Petersburg.

"It was either him or us," 19-year-old Joshua Lipert of St. Petersburg told an onlooker, according to a report in the St. Petersburg Times.  "Look who lost."

"We like to cut the jaws out, hang them on the wall as a souvenir," said Robert Korkoske, 16.

The lads called it a trophy kill.

The article generated 287 comments, most of them criticizing the young men. Several asked why the 16-year-old wasn't in school.

The St. Petersburg Times published an accompanying shark photo gallery of shark catches in Florida.

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