Should shark fishing be allowed from the beach? Dead shark reignites debate

A more-than-400-pound tiger shark washed up dead this month north of the Juno Beach Pier with a large hook in its jaw and no outward signs of injury.

The sight of the impressive fish lolling in the surf break with curious dogs sniffing at its corpse reignited a debate on fishing for shark from the beach, and what happens when the toothy torpedoes are violently dragged onto terra firma at the end of a fishing line.

Related: Palm Beach can’t regulate shark fishing, state says

“For being such consummate predators, they are remarkably delicate organisms in many ways,” said Dan Abel, a professor of marine science at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. “Well-meaning people catch sharks, release them and think if they swim away, it will be fine. But that’s not always true.”

A fisherman pulls a tiger shark back into the water on Juno Beach after catching, measuring and photographing it for the 2017 Big Hammer Challenge Catch and Release Shark Tournament, May 6 , 2017. The contest from April 14 to May 14, extends to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

Related: Video of whale shark off West Palm Beach will leave you speechless.

Struggling at the end of a fisherman’s line, a shark’s body goes into survival overdrive. Deadly amounts of lactic acid build in muscles that can become so fatigued that they just stop working. Even if released, the shark can sink to the bottom of the ocean and suffocate.

If a large shark is hauled onto a beach for a trophy picture, its motionless tail no longer helps pump blood to its small heart. Capillaries on its belly burst, turning white flesh to a rose pink. Internal organs hemorrhage under the crush of gravity where sea water once buoyed its weight.

Related: Porn star faked shark bite off Palm Beach County coast, charter captain says

A tiger shark caught during a fishing tournament May 6, 2017 in Juno Beach everts its stomach, likely in response to the stress of being caught. Sharks have the ability to turn their stomachs inside out. One expert said in this case it was likely similar to a gag reflex in humans in response to being caught. (Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post)

“The recreational fishermen no doubt enjoy the sport of shark fishing, but need to recognize that these animals are not able to handle the physiological stress of fighting on a line for an extended time,” said Florida Atlantic University shark expert Stephen Kajiura.

Kajiura’s students performed the necropsy on the tiger shark found north of the pier and are awaiting results. But he suspects it died after a fight with fishermen.

“They likely released it thinking it was OK, but it was probably near exhaustion and died from stress soon afterwards,” Kajiura said.

University of Miami shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag was tracking the shark found dead in Jupiter.

Find out what Hammerschlag was studying and read more about the debate over shark fishing from the beach in the full Palm Beach Post story.

Hook taken from the jaws of a tiger shark that was found dead north of the Juno Beach Fishing pier.

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