May 05, 2014
By Andrew Vanlaningham
In a twist of fate almost stranger than fiction, a Georgia man caught one of the most bizarre and rare species of shark in the Gulf of Mexico.
On April 19, a commercial fisherman, Captain Carl Moore, of Georgia, was fishing off the Florida Keys for royal shrimp in 2,000 feet of water when he pulled his net up and found more than just shrimp. Moore, 63, said he didn't want to get close to the shark with a tape measure, but it was estimated to be about 15 feet long.
"It was uglier than a mother-in-law," Moore told a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist he reported his catch to. After snapping a few quick photos with his phone, Moore released the shark alive and back into the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the bizarre appearance, the catch was described by Moore as a highlight of his 50 years of shrimping.
"I didn't even know what it was," Moore told the Houston Chronicle. "I didn't get the tape measure out because that thing's got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage."
The goblin shark is only the second on record to have been caught in the Gulf, the first since 2000. Goblin sharks, or elfin sharks, are deep water sharks widely distributed throughout the world, but with larger concentrations of the species in the canyons around Japan, the Indian Ocean and South Africa. They have been observed at depths from 311 feet to over 4,000 feet.
In an official statement regarding Moore's catch, NOAA said its "biologists encourage people to call and report these rare sightings and catches, as the information they can collect allows them to know more about a species."
Because of the rarity of the shark, especially in these parts of the world, information on the goblin shark is lacking tremendously.
"We don't even know how old they get, how fast they grow," NOAA shark expert John Carlson told the Chronicle.
"I'm probably one of the only 10 people who've seen one of these alive," Moore said he was told by NOAA.
Goblin sharks are easily identifiable by their protruding jaws, and their pinkish color. In Japan, they are known as Tenguzame, named after the mythical half human and half bird creature called Tengu. It's not uncommon for species like the goblin shark to occasionally end up as bycatch on commercial deep sea fishing expeditions, as was the case with Moore.
Unlike most species of shark, "they don't have any commercial value, other than their jaws," says Charlott Stenberg, a marine biologist.
It wasn't even a question for Moore as to whether or not he should release the shark. "That's my ocean out there and anything in it concerns me...I know the value of trying to preserve things," Moore said.
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