Nurse Shark Chased a Spearfisherman

Sean O’Connell was spearfishing off the coast of Pompano Beach, Florida, July 1 when he got a little more fish than he bargained for.

The founder of was out with several friends when he speared a hogfish.

When he added his catch to his fish stringer, he noticed a nurse shark lying under a layer of rock. As he floated on the surface he spoke with another fisherman to warn him of the shark.

His friend asked if the shark posed a threat, and O’Connell said they are normally docile, but might become curious after smelling fish blood.

Because O’Connell was having trouble untangling his fish stringer, he dove down again to place his spear on some shallow rocks and then headed back to the surface to string the fish.

While he was struggling with the fish, his friend warned him the nurse shark was on the move.

O’Connell quickly started swimming away as the shark closed in for a free meal.

“I’m swimming fast, trying to untangle the stringer and fish from my arm and keep the hog out of the water, while kicking the shark who is trying to bite me and my fins,” he explained.

The shark ate both the fish and the fish stringer, but O’Connell did not leave empty handed. He was able to save the freshly speared hogfish.

Although nurse sharks are normally docile, like most sharks, they can become excited by the smell of blood in the water. They are also drawn to the sounds of struggling fish.

Sean O’Connell_nurse_shark_spearfishing_O’Connell was uninjured during the incident.


In addition to the presence of the shark, another threat can be seen in the video. O’Connell’s female partner developed what appears to be a severe leg cramp.

She was wearing a weight belt, which aids in diving below the water’s surface. Not removing the belt could have led to drowning. She had to overcome the negative buoyancy before tending her leg cramp, and is seen pulling her mask away from her eyes and moving it to her forehead.

This is known to be a distress action in SCUBA diving. Once the mask is moved to the forehead it can easily be knocked off. As long as it’s on the face, the wearer should be OK.  A big enough wave could still knock it loose, but the nose pocket helps prevent complete removal.

The proper procedure is to leave the mask on until safely back on the boat or on dry land.  However, if it needs to be taken off for some reason, the best method is to pull it down around the neck.

Before snorkeling or diving, it is important to know proper procedure for removing cramps and dealing with emergencies.

While snorkeling is a relatively easy sport to master, acquiring proper instruction is highly recommended. Both SCUBA Schools International (SSI) and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) offer snorkeling classes.

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