News of the capture–and eventual release–of a great white shark on a North Carolina beach is circulating on the Internet, generating anger among conservationists because of the way the shark was treated.
The catch was made at the Outer Banks in October by Jeff Heglund, who used the moniker "Shark Man" when he wrote about his remarkable exploit last month on the Calvary Temple Youth Group blog.
Heglund’s story began to circulate after it was posted Wednesday morning on Facebook by the South Florida Shark Club, which claims to have documented land-based shark fishing “better than any organization on the planet.”
SFSC stated that this was the first-ever shore-caught white shark on the East Coast of the U.S.
Of the nighttime hookup, Heglund wrote, “It felt as if someone hooked my line to an SUV on Highway 12.”
It took an hour with heavy tackle to reel the shark to the beach on the Outer Banks, and Heglund’s reaction was one of disbelief.
“It was shocking to see a Great White shark in the sand as we finally dragged this now exhausted monster by the tail onto the beach,” Heglund wrote. “He measured 87 inches long and we estimated his weight at over 180 pounds….
“As I studied his mouth I was terrified as I considered what the bible says of the enemy of our souls and judgment in hell. The bible says the devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. This definitely seemed like a lion of the sea, and a juvenile at that!”
The shark was released, but it had clearly spent lots of time out of water, and that’s what is drawing the most criticism.
“This is a protected species in Atlantic waters,” stated the Marine Conservation Science Institute, a California-based group that studies white sharks, on Facebook. “That means you do not drag it up the beach for poses, gap the jaw, or lift the tail to get that winning shot.
“What you do is cut line and release immediately, especially if you are not removing hook or tagging. Sad to see this juvenile in this state. Hopefully he fully recovered.”
From Melissa Michaelson, a shark conservationist, on the White Shark Advocacy’s members-only Facebook page:
“This is a protected species and it’s against the law to land in our waters. There was no reason to drag it further up the beach, take multiple poses, and gap the jaw twice... There was no tagging involved here, nor was hook removed. Heres a tip: if you’re scared of sharks maybe you shouldn’t be fishing for them!?”
It is illegal to target and kill white sharks, and those that are hooked inadvertently should be released as quickly as possible.
Reaction to Heglund’s catch was mixed in the comments section beneath the Calvary Temple blog post.
From a reader named Sue: “Then why did you release him if you saw him as ‘devil goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour”’… I would have killed the guy. I know a lot are against that, I am fascinated by sharks, even great whites…. but I would kill them.”
Heglund’s response was quick and pointed: “It is against the law to kill them. I was a very big surprise to see it on the end of my line!” Great white sharks are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
However, a recent study found their numbers to have been increasing in the Atlantic, thanks to fairly recent conservation measures, and an increase in seal populations.
Hopefully, East Coast beach anglers, with their heavy tackle, are not targeting the important apex predators intentionally.