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Hammerhead Shark Found Buried on Florida Beach

Feb 05, 2015 04:31 PM EST
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A nine-foot-long hammerhead shark was found buried on a Florida beach Wednesday, the apparent victim of a fishing incident.

Local diver and shark advocate Jim Abernathy, who got the call about the shark buried at Juno Beach, says this isn't the first hammerhead shark that has been found dumped in the sand in this area. However, it's still a rare sight.

"If a shark is injured and dies, it is usually well off shore. The bodies rarely make it to the beach," Rob Rogerson, north county training officer for Palm Beach County Ocean Rescue, told the Palm Beach Coast.

The hammerhead shark, a protected species, was reportedly caught during the Blacktip Challenge fishing tournament that took place over the weekend. The fishermen responsible said the animal died while they were trying to release it back into the ocean, later notifying the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) of their accidental catch.

Hammerheads are protected in Florida, however upon review of available footage FWC officials determined that the fishermen in fact were trying to help the shark, and so no fines or tickets were issued to those involved.

"If they were in possession of the hammerhead, they would have been in violation," said Liz Barraco, spokesperson for FWC.

So how did the shark end up on Juno Beach? FWC says that poor water conditions at the time prompted this unusual burial.

"The seas were choppy. It was getting dark. It would have been unsafe for us to deposit the shark carcass off shore," Barraco told the Palm Beach Post.

But this Florida beach is not the final resting place for this hammerhead. Officials say the shark's carcass will ultimately be deposited in another location.

Hammerhead sharks are typically found in temperature and tropical waters worldwide, according to National Geographic, with most seen during their summer migrations to cooler waters. Their hammer-like heads don't just make them easily identifiable, but also allow them to more thoroughly scan the ocean for food, thanks to spaced out sensory organs.

Most hammerhead species are relatively small and not considered dangerous to humans (few attacks have been recorded).

The exact number of hammerheads around the globe is unknown, however there are certain species that are either vulnerable or endangered. Both the squat-headed hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran) and the scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) are considered endangered species, while the smalleye hammerhead (Sphyrna tudes) and the smooth hammerhead (Sphyrna zygaena) are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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