Earlier this week, while conducting my morning sea turtle nesting survey, I had the misfortune of coming across a dead tiger shark north of the Juno Beach Pier. The shark had an internal acoustic tag, and according to Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, director of the University of Miami Predator Ecology Lab and Shark Research & Conservation Program, it was tagged at Tiger Beach, Bahamas, back in October 2013. At the time of its tagging, the shark was pregnant and it is possible that the shark was pregnant when it died as well.
Just three days before, a similar sized Tiger shark washed up dead on Hutchinson Island, Florida, about 30 miles north of Juno Beach. Both sharks had large fishing hooks lodged in their jaws. When I left the scene, Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers and researchers from the surrounding areas were working to remove the internal acoustic tag and taking samples of the shark to run further tests. Whether the shark died of natural causes or possible stress from having been caught is unknown. The fact that two tiger sharks similar in size have washed up with large hooks in their jaws in a three-day span in such close proximity leads me to believe they were victims of long-lining, drowning before being cut free with the hooks still in their jaws. Another theory of mine is they were hooked closer to shore and died from stress after a long fight with fishermen. These are just my own theories, but whatever the cause it was sad to see such a beautiful animal lifeless on the beach. I’ve always had respect for sharks, but after seeing this massive animal on the beach and how truly beautiful it was, I will look at sharks with a new perspective now.