Endangered hammerhead caught, meat sold


    A hammerhead shark was caught on Saturday and given to the George Town fish market to be sold for its meat.

    Scalloped hammerhead sharks are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to 
population declines.

    Colin Wilson captained the 25-foot boat that participated in a swordfish tournament over the weekend when one of his four lines snagged a nearly 250-pound scalloped hammerhead shark.

    “At the time, we thought it was a massive swordfish,” Mr. Wilson said. “By no means did we go, ‘let’s go get a hammerhead and hack it up’.”

    When the fishermen brought the shark up, they found that the fish was lassoed with one hook hanging from its mouth and a second hook – what he calls a ‘gut hook’ – buried deep in its throat. They decided to ‘bonk’ the shark – essentially hitting the animal over the head to 
kill it quickly.

    “As captain… we determined that it was deep hooked and it was going to die anyway,” Mr. Wilson said. “I’d be more against cutting loose a fish that’s going to die than selling it for people to eat.”

    Mr. Wilson said that he dropped the fish off at the fish market and didn’t accept money for it.

    On Sunday, activist and shark expert Guy Harvey heard about the caught shark and visited the 
fish market.

    “I went to the beach on Sunday… and did a brief interview on camera with the fisherman who caught this hammerhead,” Mr. Harvey said. “While this species is severely overexploited, it is likely the fishermen had no idea of the current status regarding this or any sharks around the Cayman Islands.”

    Mr. Harvey said the meat was sold for $5 per pound and none of the meat was wasted.

    “I cautioned the gentleman that if any more sharks (let alone hammerheads) are caught then they should be released alive,” he said.

    The Cayman Islands Department of the Environment released a statement saying that although several species of sharks are occasionally caught in Cayman, they are not considered to be a target species and fishermen do often take great care to avoid hooking these animals.

    “Sharks that are accidentally caught are often sold for meat so as not to waste the animal; it is rare that a shark is killed just for the sake of it,” read the DoE statement.

    Oliver Dubock from Marine Conservation International has been working with the DoE on shark research.

    “The fishermen that caught the shark were targeting swordfish and accidentally hooked up with the animal,” he said. “It is not illegal to catch or sell shark here in Cayman, so even if the fishermen had intended to catch one it would not be investigated by DoE enforcement; however from a strictly research point of view, I would try to get as much data on the animal as possible for our project.”

    Mr. Dubock has been focusing on the current shark and cetacean programme, a project that involves examining the local populations of sharks, whales and dolphins.

    He recommends that if fishermen hook any animal they don’t intend to keep, they should try to remove the hook when possible, or at least cut the hook off leaving as little line trailing from the animal.

    “I can appreciate people would be fearful of getting close to the mouth of a shark, but the main thing is to let the animal go, alive, with as little tackle attached as possible,” he said. “Sharks are occasionally killed for no other reason than fishermen believe they are dangerous and eat all their fish; in these cases the shark is often tossed back into the sea without being utilised.

    This accidental catch has worried other animal conservationists and enthusiasts because the shark’s endangered status.

    “Fins from the three large hammerhead species (great, scalloped and smooth hammerheads) are amongst the most highly priced in the international fin trade, spurring the severe over-exploitation of these sharks,” said Mahmood Shivji, professor of the Oceanographic Centre at Nova Southeastern University in Florida and director of the Save Our Seas Shark Centre. “Given their endangered status, prohibiting the commercial sale of hammerhead sharks caught in Cayman waters would be a terrific step towards conserving these evolutionarily unique species and establishing the Cayman Islands as a leader in Caribbean marine conservation efforts.”

    Mr. Wilson said that if he could do it over, he would have made different decision regarding the animal’s release.

    “Now, I would let the fish decide its fate,” he said. “But is it better to let a fish swim around with a hand-sized hook in his gut, or kill it?”


    An endangered scalloped hammerhead shark was accidentally caught on Saturday.
    Photo: Submitted


    1. This is disgraceful. What’s next, road kill Bengal Tiger at 5 a pound? Cayman has an ongoing history of poaching endangered species and exploiting them for their food value. Allowing this accidently caught shark to be sold in the market sets a precedent for further exploitation and should be banned by the DOE.

    2. I would support the law making fishing for sharks illegal so if a charter fishing boat captain gets a tourist who wants to fish for sharks he can simply answer that it is illegal and not worth loosing his boat over.

    3. What is needed here more than the 2 bit criticism from armchair critics is education.

      Blame the DOE for not educating fisherman on what the can and can’t take from the sea.

      Local fisherman don’t have office job’s, they know one thing and and one thing well… how to fish. I doubt they sit on the internet all day and research endangered species.

      A 5/lb of meat on a 250lb fish is a pretty good catch… too bad nobody told them that the rest of society (those never get their hands dirty but can where blood diamonds with pride) deem it immoral, inhumane, an exploitation and savage.

      You sideline environmentalist need to look in the mirror.

    4. It should never have been allowed to be sold. How many ‘accidential’ catches will we see now. Fishermen should have been fined if its illegal, simple as that.

    5. lol… and the news media sensationalize the whole story, making it look like the man commit murder! They picked the most gruesome picture! I wished they showed such photos as to what is done to poor chickens, cows, and pigs, slaughtered for food!

    6. Again from the picture it is obvious that the sharks mouth has been wounded severely from a large hook! Mr. Wilson just did the animal favor, its called mercy killing! And not only that, he did the right thing in selling parts of the fish for food! It’s not like he killed it and just left it there to rot.

    7. As Alfonso’s already stated…

      Local culture clashing with special interests agenda.

      They hooked the shark by accident; the shark was already fatally injured; these fishermen made this quite clear and that they did not set out to catch this or any other shark.

      Caymanian fishermen are some of the most professional, knowledgable and responsible in the world…

      Some of the world’s experts, if you please.

      Its quite ok for some people to capture, imprison and enslave wild dolphins so they can ‘swim’ with them but…

      Its a horendouse crime to butcher a dead shark and sell its meat for food.

      If there is no law against what these fishermen did, no crime or offense has been committed.

      Some people will jump on any bandwagon just to be in the the ‘in crowd’.

      How pathetic is that !

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