A disturbing video showing fisherman gaffing what appears to be a protected great white shark has been posted on social media. (updated below)
In the video, which was posted to Facebook by Mike Hefner, a shark that appears to be a juvenile great white shark is pulled from the water and up the side of the Huntington Beach Pier by fishermen using a long rope with a hook which appears to be lodged in the shark gills.
Another image, posted later, shows the damaged gills were split and bleeding.
Great white sharks are a protected species and it is against the law to land or haul one out of the water for photos. Once the shark is identified, the fisherman is supposed to cut the line and release the shark.
Anglers who catch great white sharks in California can be fined up to $10,000.
Officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife are aware of the video posting, and investigators are looking for the fisherman.
Hefner, who was visiting the area, said he did not know the fisherman, and the shark was released after the photos were taken.
“From what I saw it was alive when they threw it back, but obviously it got f** up by the gaff,” Hefner replied to a question in a post made after the initial video was uploaded.
However, some others who witnessed the scene, had doubts as to whether the shark survived.
According to John Gorman, member of the Huntington Beach Community Group, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will not pursue a case against the fisherman involved. He said he received the following information from a spokesperson for the DA’s office.
“After reviewing the reports, videos, and photos regarding this case, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office has decided against filing charges due to the fact that the People cannot prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial due to several factors including:
• experts could not confirm the species was a great white shark
• the shark was a juvenile, making the identification even more challenging
• experts could not determine beyond a reasonable doubt that the shark had died as a result of the injuries
• the shark was not found / recovered for examination”
He goes on to state in a post he shared with the White Shark Interest Group, that Professor Chris Lowe of CSULB Marine Biology (Shark Lab) Institute with the DA’s office was not contacted to identify the species of shark involved.
Gorman said he has written to the mayor for comment on the situation.