Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shark Finning Survivor Found in Maryland

Greetings everyone. I know I said my next blog would be about the mako shark unless something big came up. Well, something big has come up and it involves the sand tiger shark and finning in the United States. Keep in mind during this blog a few things. One, what I am about to explain is most likely a species exclusive thing which I will dive into a bit more as to why. Two, shark finning is alive and well in the United States despite being "illegal". No enforcement of a law makes that law a pretty weak one and it seems like that may be the case in the waters off the Northeast coast of the United States.

Sand tiger sharks are a very unique species of shark in that they will actually surface from time to time and gulp air. They will then store that air in their bodies which will actually assist them in becoming neutrally buoyant (like a scuba diver). This means that if a sand tiger shark stops swimming it will not simply sink to the bottom of the sea, rather it can drift through currents without having to put much effort at all into swimming. When other species of shark are finned, they are unable to swim for long at all and wind up sinking down to the bottom and die from either drowning, starving, or being eaten by other animals. It has been thought for a long time that no species of shark can survive the finning process, until now.

Just a few days ago, a sand tiger shark was caught by a local fishermen. To his surprise, the shark was finned! The sand tiger shark was missing her pectoral fins, dorsal fin, as well as 3/4 of her caudal fin. Chances are the shark did not bleed out as the people responsible seemed to have missed vital veins that would have spelled even greater disaster and probably death had they been hit. The wounds on what is left of the sharks fins also appeared to be fully healed, meaning that this shark was probably finned at least a year ago! Another observation that was made is that she appeared to be quite large, possibly with pups. If that is actually the case, wouldn't that be something? We will probably never know though as the shark was quickly released. While being released, the fishermen noted that the shark was swimming like a snake would through the water and still had a ton of power despite not having the majority of her caudal fin. In fact, the fishermen thought he was going to be knocked when she powered away from him. I'd like to give a special shout-out to Melissa Michaelson for sharing information of this story with me! Below you will find images of the shark...

All photo credit goes to: E.L. Jehi

So what do I take out of this? I take that somewhere off the east coast of the USA, there is a shark finning ship that has no idea about the species they are finning. Apparently this is not the first sand tiger that has been caught finned and alive. Something needs to be done. It is obvious that shark finning is happening in our waters and yet nothing is being done about it. Back in 2010 a sand tiger was caught with it's fins cut off in Delaware. The animal did not appear as healthy as this one and the wounds were not completely healed. Here we are years later and more and more of this is being seen and something needs to be done about it.

 Another interesting note about the sand tiger shark is that they are a species of shark that have been known to develop spinal issues. Even with their fins attached, sand tigers sharks will, from time to time, swim in a similar fashion to a snake where their entire bodies are aiding in swimming. This shark now has to do that whenever she wants to make any kind of real progress while swimming due to her lack of fins. In the end this is both a sad story and an amazing one at the same time. We have proof that sand tiger sharks can potentially survive being finned far longer than other species. We have also learned that there very well could be a shark finning operation going on off the east coast. Most importantly, we have learned that even though these animals are protected, they are by no means safe from finning and exploitation. The laws are in place, but now more than ever, they need to be acted on and the people responsible need to be brought to justice for their crimes against sand tiger and no doubt other species of shark as well!

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