Photo by Carl Moore
Story by David Goodhue, KeysInfoNet
Shrimp fishermen in Key West hauled up a specimen of the rarely seen, little-known goblin shark last month. The 18-foot-long fish was safely released back into the ocean.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research biologist and shark expert John Carlson calls the April 19 catch “an important scientific discovery” since it is only the second goblin shark on record ever found in the Gulf of Mexico. The last specimen found in the Gulf was in July 2000, Carlson said.
The shark is unusual looking, with an elongated, flattened snout and a protruding jaw with narrow, jagged teeth.
Very little is known about goblin sharks, including how long they live, their biological status and their mating habits, Carlson added. One of the only things biologists do know is that goblin sharks live in very deep water.
The few found have mostly been in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Although known to be large sharks, Carlson is not even sure if the one caught this week is bigger or smaller than other goblin sharks of the same age.
The fisherman who caught the shark, Carl Moore, released it back into the water by tying a rope around its tail and hoisting it over the rail with the winch of his 105-foot boat, the Sea Angles. He said the shark was thrashing too much for any of his two crewmen to safely handle the large fish.
“Its teeth were so wicked looking, I didn’t want anyone getting too close to it,” Moore said.
Bycatch is not unusual in Moore’s business, but he said he makes it a point to release animals alive back into the ocean.
“It’s my ocean, and I like to protect it,” he said.
The shark was in Moore’s trawling net, which was brought up from about 1,700 feet of water. Moore, whose boat is based out of North Carolina, was fishing for royal red shrimp about 15 miles south of Key West.
Moore, 63, has been in the commercial shrimp fishing business for 50 years. He’s hauled up many different species as bycatch — from turtles to sawfish — but he’s never caught anything quite like a goblin shark.
“It freaked me out, man,” Moore said this week. “I’ve never seen something so ugly in my life.”