Shark Wrestler Likely Damaging Wildlife

A man living in the Nantucket area caught a shark while fishing and spent about 45 minutes wrestling with it. He said he enjoys catching them in this manner and then letting them go.

Image Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Wiki Commons
Image Credit: Brian Gratwicke, Wiki Commons

“I always let them go. I’m not trying to hurt the sharks,” he explained according to CNN. Amazingly, it has also been reported he has a degree in environmental science and supports conservation.

If this is the case, one would imagine he would know that wrestling a shark onto a beach for 45 minutes would probably cause it harm. “The most important concept of improved catch-and-release practices is to get the fish back in the water with a minimum of handling, and as quickly as possible.” (Source: University of Florida)

Three quarters of an hour of wrestling is hardly a minimum of handling. In fact, one of the main causes of death for fish that have been caught and released is stress. In the case of the shark that was wrestled, one could only imagine this even was extremely stressful.

“Fish that are caught and released may die for several reasons, but the two primary causes are stress and wounding. Stress results from the fish fighting after being hooked. Internally, the physical exertion causes an oxygen deficit in the tissues, forcing the muscles to function anaerobically (without oxygen). This causes lactic acid to build up in the muscle tissue, and then to diffuse into the blood. Lactic acid acts as an acid in the blood, causing the pH of the blood to drop. Even slight changes in pH can cause major disruptions of the metabolic processes, ultimately killing the fish. If the fish is quickly released, its blood pH usually returns to normal and the fish will be unaffected. Some fish, after a long tow, may appear to live once released, but the imbalance in the blood chemistry may kill them as late as three days after being caught.” (Source: University of Rhode Island)

So, even though a fish that was caught may be released and either float or swim away, it may die soon afterwards. However, because the fisherman or woman released it he or she may assume they did not damage or kill it and continue on catching and releasing.

The shark wrestler was using baited hooks, and they can cause more severe injuries to fish because they are swallowed. Higher mortality rates are associated with hooking in the stomach and gill areas.

Also, bringing a fish up too quickly from depths of 40 feet or more can damage their swim bladders making it less likely they will be able to swim normally.

“I just played around with this guy,” he said. “I love the feeling — it’s like a connection with the animal,’ said the shark wrestler. (Source: CNN) This is hardly a healthy connection for the wild animal though. It was reported he said he has caught about 100 sharks in the last eight months. Who knows exactly how many of them survived or died after the encounters. The particular shark the recently caught was a sandbar shark, and their population is considered vulnerable, due to overfishing. They are no threat to humans, and eat fish, crabs and rays.

Some may defend his behavior because they believe that sharks are dangerous, but this is utterly untrue. The vast majority of shark species are no danger to humans and even the tiny number of shark attacks each year around the world result from humans being in the wrong places.

Another issue is that the various media outlets reporting about the shark wrestler don’t mention the likelihood that the sharks or other fish are being damaged or killed. At least one of them actually used the word ‘brave’ to describe him, though harassing and potentially killing innocent, non-threatening wildlife is hardly brave.

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