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Record-Breaking Hammerhead Landings Deadly And Possibly Illegal, Says Marine Biologist



Last month a 21-year-old man in Florida made international headlines for snagging a 13-foot hammerhead while fishing off the pier at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. After his friend’s line bent hard and the huge fish was pulled in closer, Ryan Bolash dragged the shark onto a beach full of stunned onlookers.

“It was flailing around, everything like that,” one witness later said. “It was really cool.”

The famous snag was only the latest in a spate of recent high-profile hammerhead catches. But according to one marine biologist, the sharks’ lives were in danger and the fishermen were probably breaking the law.

In March a group of Florida Atlantic University students made headlines when they caught a 14-foot, estimated 700-pound hammerhead (and posted a YouTube video of the ordeal, now viewed more than a million times), and in February a man was featured on local television after winning a South Florida fishing tournament with his hammerhead catch.

All the fishermen expressed concern for the animals’ well-being and released the sharks. “They’re an amazing creature,” Bolash said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to hurt them.”

But the fishers also struggled for an hour or more with the animals to reel them in — hammerheads are renowned fighters — and took photos and measurements before releasing the sharks. Keeping the animals on land even for a few minutes can prove fatal, says a University of Miami marine biologist. And thanks to a 2012 law aimed at protecting the species — which is endangered — it’s also illegal.

“Think about if we were holding your head underwater for several minutes while scuba divers were taking a picture,” says David Shiffman, the biologist. “You’re not adapted to survive in that world.”

Of shark species, Shiffman says, hammerheads have among the highest stress responses to being caught. They fight instantly and vigorously, which makes the shark popular with fishermen looking for an adrenaline rush. But it also means hammerheads are more likely to die from the stress and fatigue of a protracted battle with a fishing line, even if they’re released promptly once they’re finally reeled in.

Shiffman is particularly miffed at those who brag of hours-long “epic fights” to bring in the hammerheads. “The ‘fight’ is the animal literally trying not to die,” he says. “[It’s] putting every bit of energy it has into not being killed.”

There’s no reliable hammerhead count available, Shiffman says, but he estimates the shark’s population has declined by as much as 90 percent since the 1970s. In 2012 the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission passed a regulation prohibiting the killing of three varieties, including the great hammerhead, the largest. But the law also prohibits “landing” of the sharks, meaning it’s illegal to bring them ashore unless they are “immediately returned to the water free, alive, and unharmed.”

Keeping the hammerheads on the beach to measure them or pose for a picture, Shiffman contends, means the animals aren’t being immediately released, and the stressful fight to reel them in means they’re not left unharmed.

The biologist estimates that in recent years hundreds of hammerheads have been pulled ashore, often during the night or in unpopulated areas where the practice can go unnoticed.

“‘Oh yeah, of course we released it. We don’t want to hurt the animals,'” he said, mimicking the fishermen’s typical response. “But they’re using illegal actions that hurt the animals. Their heart’s in the right place, but their actions need to match it.”



Dive Training Blogs

How Scuba Diving can help you overcome physical and mental challenges




This International Disabilities Day (December 3 2022) PADI is reminding the world of the healing aspects that the ocean (or any body of water) can provide us all and how important of a modality it is for helping those with physical or mental challenges improve their wellbeing. From simply being within close proximity of it or diving beneath the salty surface for an underwater adventure, the ocean is also healing.

Regardless of your age, ability, or even limitations, the ocean can benefit us physically, emotionally and even spiritually. This is why PADI is on a mission to make those benefits accessible to all, launching their Adaptive Techniques Diving Course in the hopes that all of humanity can experience the full transformational power the ocean offers us.

While many are more familiar with traditional therapies, whether it be diving, mermaiding or freediving, people around the world have been forever changed by connecting with the water – conquering mental or physical perceived limitations.

There are an estimated one billion people on the planet that have a physical and/or mental disability – imagine the power that diving and immersion can have on this population if awarded the opportunity.

PADI’s history is replete with people whose lives have been transformed by connecting with the water because they were able to experience and explore the underwater world through PADI programme and certifications. PADI’s approach to diver education has always been inclusive and is a key pillar to their Pillars of Change.  Everyone who meets prerequisites is welcome to join the global community of 29 million+ certified PADI Divers.

PADI created two courses that focus on increasing awareness of varying diver abilities and exploring adaptive teaching techniques to apply when training and diving with physically and mentally challenged divers: the PADI Adaptive Techniques Specialty and the PADI Adaptive Support Diver course.

These courses further expand Instructors’ and Divemasters’ abilities to be student-centered and prescriptive in approach when adapting techniques to meet diver needs. Here are the various ways PADI helps those with disabilities overcome all their challenges by connecting them with water:

1. Improved Muscular Movement, Light Sensitivity and PTSD Symptoms

A 2011 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found, “veterans with spinal cord injuries who underwent a four-day scuba diving certification saw significant improvement in muscle movement, increased sensitivity to light touch and pinprick on the legs, and large reductions in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.”

2. Lifts Your Mental State and Mood

Did you know that the ocean air can literally lift your mood?  “The sound and vision of the ocean lift our mood,” says consultant psychiatrist Dr Arghya Sarkhel. “The touch of sand and the smell of a seaside breeze leads to relaxation. On a biological level, this audio-visual stimulus incites our parasympathetic nervous system—that activates ‘rest and digest’, as opposed to ‘fight or flight’,” he says. Now scientists are quantifying the positive cognitive and physical effects of water and the improved sense of physical health and well-being.

Equally diving into the therapeutic benefits that diving can provide is Jeffery Puncher, Director for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottowa. He is currently developing a virtual reality diving programme to help his patients find relief from stress and anxiety–using calming scenes of coral reefs and the swaying seas along with the soothing sounds of bubbles beneath the surface. This programme is currently being used with medical students, residents and faculty, with the goal of growing it to be adopted nationwide to help also support the psychological health of first responders.

3. Provides You with a Sense of Peace

Wallace J. Nichols, a marine biologist, has done extensive research on the ocean’s unique ability to induce a state of what he calls the “Blue Mind” in human beings. Blue Mind is a mildly meditative state characterized by calmness, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment. Nichols states that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and heal us on a deep level.

4. Enhanced Physical Movement

Being in the water allows you the opportunity to experience a feeling of flexibility and freedom that those with disabilities would rarely get to experience on land. This is because on land the muscles become restricted by the force of gravity. But in the water, that sensation drifts away and is replaced by the freedom to feel the freedom of movement.

5. Confidence and Control

The freedom of enhanced physical movement in the water also provides a sense of increased confidence and control. They can explore beneath the surface just like able-bodied people can do, which equally increases their own self-belief and feelings of empowerment.

6. Anxiety Relief

Those with disabilities who equally suffer from anxiety can find tranquility beneath the surface. By having to focus on your breath and being in the moment, all of the mental stress that can come with having a disability is no longer top of mind and instead allows for an escape in which you can truly enjoy the moment.

Find out more at

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Gear News

Scubapro Winter Promo: free gift!



Buy an EVERDRY 4.0 dry suit and receive a K2 Light undersuit set for free!

Divers can look forward to the cold-water season this winter, as SCUBAPRO is offering a free K2 Light undersuit set (top & pants) to all scuba enthusiasts who purchase an EVERDRY 4.0 neoprene dry suit by 15 January.

The EVERDRY 4.0 is a high-quality dry suit made from compressed neoprene. It combines the slim fit, comfort and flexibility of a wetsuit with the warmth and tightness of a dry suit.

The K2 Light Set is the ideal undergarment for neoprene dry suits. Its light grid plush material reliably holds the warmth where you need it in cold waters. The Everdry’s elastic wrist loops and heel strap suspenders keep sleeves and pants in place under the suit. Available in men’s and women’s sizes.

A combination that turns your cold-water lake into a hotspot!

For more information visit the Scubapro website.

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