Longline fishing blamed for killing blue shark
Experts say the discovery of a dead shark on a South shore beach this week might indicate commercial longline fishing activity not far from Bermuda’s shores.
Video footage of the creature was circulated on social media, including to Choy Aming, of the Bermuda Shark Project, who recognised the beach as Vickers Bay in Devonshire and went to inspect the shark on Wednesday evening.
Mr Aming told The Royal Gazette he found a seven-foot blue shark, an offshore species rarely spotted close to land and not often seen in Bermuda’s waters.
He said in one of the videos it was clear the shark was caught on a hook attached to what looked to be a longline float.
By the time Mr Aming got to the beach, the fishing equipment was no longer there.
He measured the animal, took a DNA sample for his data collection project and checked its stomach contents, finding nothing.
He said: “This is just a guess, but because it was fresh.
It was probably dead for only a couple of days — and it washed up onshore here in pretty good condition, [it could have got hooked] maybe a couple of miles out, maybe ten.
“It would have taken only a couple of days at best to reach Bermuda. The closest I have ever physically seen a live one is at Challenger Bank.”
Mr Aming added: “It’s not 100 per cent, but chances are the gear would have been baited if the shark took it. It could potentially be a local fisherman or somebody close to shore [from elsewhere].
“That’s the big question, I guess. Where was this gear from?”
Marine conservationist Chris Flook saw the videos and said he suspected the shark was the victim of commercial longline fishing.
“It’s more than likely,” he said. “I’m not a gambling person, but I would gamble on that being foreign people fishing our waters.
“The blue shark is a pelagic open water shark. It is very unlikely that a Bermudian is doing that kind of fishing.”
He said the island didn’t have the capability to properly police its 200-mile exclusive economic zone for such activity.
Both men said longline fishing — where numerous hooks attached to long lines are cast out to sea in an effort to catch as many fish as possible — was “indiscriminate” and therefore bad for the world’s dwindling shark population.
Mr Aming said of the shark found here: “It’s sad, definitely, in a way, because the animal has died, but if you just go on YouTube you can see that the amount of sharks killed en masse by Asian fishing vessels is crazy. They put out 15,000 hooks in one place.”
Mr Flook added: “The Asian vessels, they are just harvesting, raping the ocean and making money off it.
“Fishing for sharks is just bad practice in itself. The population worldwide is at the lowest level it’s ever been.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it was aware of a video, but had no information on the shark’s location.
She added: “The department will investigate on receipt of further information.”