Sharks In The Gulf Of Mexico Are Stealing Food From Fishing Nets After Learning To Associate Fishing Boats With Grub, Leading To Shark Depredation

Subphoto - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual shark

In the Gulf of Mexico, sharks have been caught stealing food from fishing nets. According to scientists, the sharks have learned how to associate fishing boats with food, leading to increased cases of shark depredation in the region.

It is a growing concern for those who rely on fishing for a living. Researchers along the Gulf Coast have been investigating the impact of this shift in shark behavior.

“Sharks learn really, really quickly. They learn engine means food,” said a marine biologist named Jasmin Graham. “So they start coming straight for the boats. Now, we’re in direct competition with them for the same fish, and that’s when you get depredation.”

Shark depredation is when a shark partially or completely removes a hooked fish from an angler’s line before the angler is able to retrieve it. The phenomenon affects fisheries all over the world, but it is especially common in the United States and Australia.

In the 20th century, humans hunted sharks heavily, which significantly decreased their populations. To this day, it is estimated that humans kill 80 to 100 million sharks for their fins or through bycatch per year.

However, some regions have established protections for sharks, allowing their populations to grow again.

Between 2003 and 2020, the number of bull sharks off the coast of Alabama has increased fivefold. Recreational fishing has also become more popular, which has attracted sharks to boats for a feast.

A report from the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council stated that shark behavior is changing around southeastern states. More and more sharks are being drawn toward boats.

Many commercial and recreational fishers have tried going farther offshore in an attempt to prevent sharks from stealing their catches and causing damage to their gear.

Subphoto – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual shark

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