Large shark trailing hook & line swims past scuba diver
The Galapagos Islands are a world of wonder and beauty beyond description. Three strong ocean currents converge here, bringing an abundance of food and microorganisms from the deep parts of the ocean. This attracts baitfish, which attract larger fish, creating an ideal habitat for top predators such as hammerhead sharks and Galapagos sharks. This abundance of animal life attracts something else; scuba divers.
Animal lovers and nature enthusiasts venture to one of the most remote parts of the planet to see sharks, turtles, fish, and other large sea animals in their natural environment. Hammerheads fill the water here, creating great walls of thousands of individuals. It's thrilling and awe inspiring to see them in such numbers as they drift past on the current, unconcerned by a human in their ocean. The Galapagos sharks live here in great numbers as well. They are the top predators here, unless orcas happen to be passing through.
This lucky scuba diver was perched on some rocks watching a show that would rival any Imax theatre production when a massive Galapagos shark cruised past him as if conducting a curious inspection. The shark eyed him from little more than arm's length away as it decided if he represented an opportunity for a meal. As the shark passed by, the scuba diver saw a fishing line trailing behind. The shark had an embedded hook in its mouth with roughly 7m (20 feet) of thick fishing line. These hooks might eventually rust and fall out, but the embedded barb will remain. It often causes an abscess and discomfort for a long period of time before it heals. In some cases, the shark's ability to hunt may be affected and they will not thrive as they should.
Long line fishing continues to be a threat to many animals that are not considered target catch. Sharks, rays, turtles, and other endangered animals are often caught as by catch. The fish die on these lines before they are retrieved and there is no release for those animals that are not a food source for the fishermen. In other cases where lines are pulled in before the fish die, sharks like this one cannot be unhooked and released. The fishermen are forced to cut the line and let the fish go with an embedded hook.
Scuba divers find sights like this one to be heart breaking. They understand the vital role that the sharks play in the health of the reef and the oceans and it's difficult to see our effect on the animals who call the ocean their home. Despite our misunderstanding of these sharks, and the fear that surrounds them, sharks are almost never a threat to people. Without them, our survival could also be in jeopardy.