A group of fishermen may face charges for illegally catching and killing a "prohibited" young great white shark over the weekend on the Huntington Beach pier.
Fortunately for officials, the video of the illegal incident was posted to
on Aug. 23 (which can be viewed after the jump). In it a man holding the camera identifies the two-and-a-half foot shark dangling from the end of three separate hooks as a mako. He and his fellow Nike-wearing fishermen revel over their catch and try to organize their efforts to try to pull it onto the pier.
It wasn't a mako shark. It was a young great white shark and while the group of fishermen can say they didn't know otherwise, that defense shouldn't hold up if they face misdemeanor charges.
"From the water it would be hard to tell, but as it was pulled up, it would have been pretty identifiable," said Dr. Chris Lowe, who runs the Shark Lab at Cal State Long Beach, which was founded in 1969. "Ignorance is not a good defense anymore."
Identifies of the fishermen and official charges have not been released. Officials from the California Department of Fish & Game Enforcement haven't returned messages for further details.
The fishermen in question made a spectacle of their catch.
While adult mako and great white sharks may be occasionally confused for one another, Dr. Rowe pointed out that the difference between the two at a young age is distinct. Young makos are "a beautiful grey-blue color," while great white's are "just grey," though in varying shades. Great whites also have black tips on the underside of their pectoral fin, which are the fins which stick out to the side like wings.
In the background of the video, another voice, possibly one of the men catching the shark, can be faintly heard saying "blanquito" ("small white") and "illegal."
According to reports, a bystander contacted the fish and game warden and the fishermen were apprehended in Newport Beach. The warden also took possession of the dead shark.
According to California's Ocean Sport Fishing Regulations, "a white shark may not be taken, except under permit issued by the Department pursuant to Section 1002 of the Fish and Game Code for scientific or educational purposes."
In the video--which is a bit gruesome and contains profanity--after the fisherman managed to get the shark onto the pier, they dragged it by by one of the lines still attached across the pier to a sink over 100 yards away. While plenty of bystanders were able to view the shark in its bloody state, the display likely won't qualify as "scientific or educational."
It's not uncommon this time of year for baby white sharks to be swimming near shore, according to Dr. Rowe. Our local waters, which are part of the Southern California Bite (nickname for the waters from Point Conception down to Northern Baja California) are a "nursery ground" for a number of sharks, says Dr. Rowe, including blue sharks, mako sharks, salmon sharks and thresher sharks. He also pointed out that it was highly unlikely that a larger great white shark mother was looming anywhere near the baby that was caught, since it's common for young great white sharks to abandon their mothers to avoid being eaten.
The SharkLab has tagged "hundreds" of young great white sharks between the Farallon Islands off the coast of San Francisco, down to the Guadalupe Islands, which are 150 statute miles off the coast of Baja California.
Much of the fear and misunderstanding of great white sharks is due to the way they are portrayed by the media, according to Dr. Rowe. "Take Shark Week for example: [The media] builds and plays off people's fear. And people like to be scared, I guess."
Now, the video of the incident from Huntington Beach: