A juvenile blacktip shark that appeared to have been bludgeoned to death was found in the shallows off Starfish Point on Monday.

Mark Tilley, a boat captain and tour guide with Mainstay Sailing, made the grim discovery during a trip with a group of tourists to the popular site.

“I was really shocked to find that” he said. “I’ve been on the water around the island for a long time and I have never seen a shark that small before. Why someone would do this to a tiny juvenile shark, I have no idea.”

He said the shark looked as though it had been hooked and then bludgeoned.

“Possibly someone caught it and didn’t know how to get it off the hook,” Mr. Tilley said.

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He said the find was particularly disappointing because blacktip sharks, though sometimes seen in Cayman, are not among the most common species.

He reported the find to the Department of Environment, but without more evidence there is little its staff can do. Killing sharks in Cayman’s waters is illegal under the National Conservation Law.

Mr. Tilley said he hoped people would begin to realize the value of sharks to both the ecosystem and to Cayman’s tourism product.

He said he believes positive conservation messages are getting through, particularly to the younger generation, but some are still resistant to change.

“It is a shame because by removing these creatures, you affect the health of the whole reef system,” he said.

The find follows the discovery in April of the carcasses of two mutilated eagle rays, also a protected species under the conservation law.

Johanna Kohler, a Department of Environment officer and shark research project coordinator, said, “Sharks are vital to our marine ecosystem and help keep our coral reef environment healthy and in balance. Under the National Conservation Law, it is illegal to ‘take’ any shark in Cayman.”

She said anyone who witnesses an offense should call the DoE on 946-8469 or call 911.

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