Record Hammerhead Shark Was Pregnant
SARASTOA, Fla. -- The likely world-record hammerhead shark caught in May weighed 1,280 pounds because it was pregnant with 55 pups -- the most scientists have ever seen.
Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory, where the shark was taken for a necropsy, said Thursday that 52 were nearly full-term and just a few days from birth. The shark was estimated to be between 40 and 50 years old.
Scientists previously believed that hammerhead sharks gave birth to 20 to 40 pups at a time.
"Although we are thankful that the fisherman gave this unique specimen to Mote, and we are learning a lot about this species from this large female shark, we were saddened to see so many unborn pups inside her so close to birth," said Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote's Center for Shark Research.
"We ask fishermen not to kill sharks for sport and to remember that shark populations have been severely depleted by overfishing. Very large sharks like this hammerhead are often pregnant females that help maintain the status of the species' population into the future. We advocate release of these large sharks and the tagging of them whenever possible."
The shark was caught by Bucky Dennis off Boca Grande on May 23. Dennis struggled for hours to reel in the shark and donated his catch to Mote for study because he didn't have a way to freeze it.
He said he wouldn't have killed it if he didn't think it was bigger than the record 991-pound hammerhead caught in 1982. He said it isn't fair to criticize him because other anglers catch pregnant fish.
"They do it every single day. I just got a lot of attention for it," he said. "I didn't know she was pregnant. All I saw was a big fish."
Whether the 14.5-foot shark is a record catch on rod and reel is still being decided. The International Game Fish Association said a decision will be made sometime in late July.
The shark's carcass couldn't be saved, Mote officials said, so a fiberglass replica will be made and displayed at the facility.