*Story updated Wednesday morning to include updated statement by the FWC
By Pete Thomas
What appears to have been a cruel post-catch ritual – towing a large shark at high speed – could land three Florida anglers in hot water.
The video was first posted to the Shark Fishing Worldwide Facebook page on Monday, beneath the caption: “Bull Buster is so tough you can drag a shark at 30 knots with it.”
The graphic footage shows three men on the boat seemingly enjoying the sight of a 5- or 6-foot shark skipping violently across the water.
Brice Walker, who posted the video, told me that he wasn’t on the boat. Walker identified the captain as Michael Wenzel, but this could not be confirmed. (Wenzel did not respond to a Facebook message sent Monday night.)
According to Fox 13 in Tampa, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission has launched an investigation. The FWC did not release the anglers' names.
Rob Klepper, Public Information Coordinator for the FWC, said in a statement issued Tuesday, “The FWC has been alerted to a video circulating on multiple social media sites showing a group of individuals traveling at high speed on the water dragging a shark behind the vessel.
“The FWC takes this very seriously and is currently investigating this incident. We are also attempting to identify the individuals in the video and where it took place.”
Klepper added, “It’s too early to speculate as to what, if any, violations took place in this incident. However, the FWC would like to state that that the lack of respect shown in this video for our precious natural resources is disheartening and disturbing, and is not representative of conservation-minded anglers around the world."
Reactions were were mixed on the Shark Fishing Worldwide comments thread, but predominantly negative on other pages.
“Why would someone do this? one person commented. “Is it supposed to be funny? I would love to drag his dumb ass the same way! I love to shark fish, but everything I catch is released.”
It’s not clear whether the shark was alive before it was roped and towed, but Walker said, “I’m pretty sure it was alive. They put a tail rope on them then drag them to kill them. That's a standard method in tournaments. I have seen guys do it at high speed before, but these guys were dumb to film it. [They] didn't realize it would spread as fast as it did.”
Klepper said that anyone with information pertaining to this incident “is urged to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com. Individuals can remain anonymous.”
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