Lemon Shark Rescue - April 2009








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Somewhere along the line, some person discarded a nylon net bag with a heavy duty synthetic fiber rope around its mouth, likely not giving it a second thought.  Somehow this nylon net bag ended up in the ocean, perhaps with a discarded potato, shellfish, or some other edible item inside.  However it got there, it came to rest upon the ocean floor, buffeted to and fro in the actions of the waves above it.  

At some point, a male lemon shark came upon this bag and nosed around it a bit to see if he could find something to eat.  Maybe he found some food within the bag, maybe not, but in any case, he stuck his nose through the rope that was used to cinch the bag shut, and this loop of rope made its way down the body of the shark until it lodged on his pectoral and dorsal fins unable to slide further back.  Being that a shark cannot swim in reverse, the rope did not move forward off his body either.

At first this rope was probably no big deal to the shark.  He may hardly have noticed it at all.  But as he grew, the rope did not grow with him.  It stayed the same size.  So in order to grow, as healthy sharks do, the shark grew around the rope, and the rope, hard and abrasive, cut into the shark’s body leaving a circle of red, raw, and exposed flesh.  This exposed flesh would have led to the death of almost any other animal in short order, but sharks are resilient to wounds, and while his body very slowly strangled, the shark pressed on.  It was only a matter of time, however. 

No one can say why one animal should go from being so unlucky to being so lucky in such short order.  This shark happened upon the right boat, the Shear Water.  I was the first to spot a rope around this shark, a shark that Jim Abernethy had seen and tried to rescue three weeks earlier.  At that time, Jim had actually wedged a knife between the rope and the shark when underwater, but the rope was too tough to cut before the shark darted away.  The crew went into action from the surface this time, and after three failed attempts, they succeeded in lassoing the tail of this lemon shark, brought him on board, cut him free of the strangling rope, and released him.  It took some time to get the shark through the lasso, but from the time of capture, the crew cut the rope and released the shark all in a space of 63 seconds.  What a great bit of teamwork from the Shear Water crew…the rescue would not have succeeded without each crew member performing perfectly. 

Somewhere along the line, this shark became “The Lucky One.”  If you like to read feel good stories, here is one of them.  It makes me smile every time I think about it.  But we have a long way to go. 

In the same 63 seconds used to save this shark, the world lost 199 other sharks to other men, killed mostly for shark fin soup.  Many of these sharks were caught and released still alive within that same 63 seconds after these other men had sliced off their fins.  





Copyright (c) 2009 - Robert Cantrell