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Report: World-Record Pregnant Hammerhead Caught Off Florida was Carrying World-Record 55 Pups

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SARASOTA, Florida -- A great hammerhead shark caught by a recreational fisherman in Boca Grande in May was pregnant, scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory confirmed after a necropsy on the animal.

The shark was measured at 14 feet long and 1,280 pounds, with its hammer measuring more than 3 feet across. At the time the shark was brought to Mote, scientists believed it may have been pregnant because its girth was so wide. The necropsy, or animal autopsy, confirmed that.

The great hammerhead, Sphyrna mokarran, that was brought to Mote had 55 shark pups, including 52 that were nearly full-term and three that were undeveloped. That’s the largest litter of pups ever found in a great hammerhead shark and scientists at Mote believe this shark was just days away from giving birth. Experts previously believed that great hammerheads gave birth to 20 to 40 pups at a time, so the information gathered from this shark is new knowledge about the species. By comparison, whale sharks – the biggest fish in the ocean – give birth to about 300 pups at a time and smaller sharks give birth to two to 10 pups at a time.

Other notable findings from the necropsy:

  • This hammerhead’s reproductive tract weighed nearly 250 pounds
  • Her stomach contained a whole southern stingray, believed to be the fisherman’s bait, and the rear half of an approximately 5-foot-long tarpon, in addition to numerous tarpon scales. The shark also had a small fishing hook inside her stomach.
  • Her liver weighed more than 100 pounds.
  • Some of the pups are being saved for future study and scientists have taken samples to be analyzed for genetic makeup. The samples will provide information about the number of males that fathered the pups.

While the status of great hammerheads in the wild is uncertain – and it is legal to harvest them ‑ experts believe their populations are depleted due to fishing pressure and habitat loss.

"Although we are thankful that the fisherman gave this unique specimen to Mote, and we are learning a lot about this species from this large female shark, we were saddened to see so many unborn pups inside her so close to birth," said Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research. "We ask fishermen not to kill sharks for sport and to remember that shark populations have been severely depleted by overfishing. Very large sharks like this hammerhead are often pregnant females that help maintain the status of the species’ population into the future. We advocate release of these large sharks and the tagging of them whenever possible."

The shark carcass has been moved to Ocean Creations in Dover, Fla., where owner Steve Brancati will take a plaster cast for mounting. A full cast will be made and an educational exhibit about sharks and their status will be created at Mote Aquarium. Mote expects the shark display to go up in the fall.

Whether or not this great hammerhead shark was a record catch on rod and reel is still being decided, according to officials with the International Game Fish Association in Dania, Fla. A decision will be made sometime in late July, after a review process is complete.

The National Marine Fisheries Service runs a volunteer shark tagging program. For more information on the NMFS Cooperative Shark Tagging Program, contact: Apex Predators Program, NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC, 28 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, RI 02882-1199.

Recreational fishermen can also help shark scientists by keeping an eye out for tags when they catch sharks, Hueter said. Mote has tagged more than 15,000 sharks of 16 species in U.S. waters since 1991 and information provided about these tagged sharks by fishermen helps scientists understand where the fish travel and the different habitats they use.

Anglers can send the tag and other information about the catch to the Center for Shark Research, Mote Marine Laboratory, 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL 34236. They should include their name, address and phone number, date and location of capture along with the total length and weight of the shark (or an estimate) and whether it was kept or released. Anglers can call 800-691-MOTE (800-691-6683) to make a report.

Fishermen who return the tag information to Mote have their names entered into a yearly drawing for a chance to win a cash prize.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of, its staff or its advertisers.

Reader Comments

41 people have commented so far. cloud add your comment

   comment# 1   - brian · Seguin, Tx, USA · Oct 26, 2006 @ 4:07pm

That's pretty sad that a majestic animal, pregnant even, has to be taken. Why not just take measurements and pictures then let the animal live. Well pretty soon there won't be any left for sportsman to enjoy. Catch and release people!
   comment# 2   - David · Poulsbo, Wa, USA · Nov 3, 2006 @ 6:15pm

I was born in Florida. I grew up in the Keys and on boats. It never fails to suprise me that humans that should love the water, believe that we are superior to everything. That our egos are worth more than something that has lived as long or more than we have (excess of 40 or more years). It takes much more intelligence than these people are capable of to understand this. Example: This guy has spent 10 years of his life just doing this "being a BIG Shark Hunter" imagine if he had worked this hard at doing something to benefit the world. What he would have accomplished?..... A Picture is truly worth a Thousand Words....
   comment# 3   - M. D. · Fort Myers, FL - USA · Nov 14, 2006 @ 1:38pm

A real sportsman would have realeased this truly rare fish. It had a right to live too. Some folks just don't get it.
   comment# 4   - J M · Mpls, Mn. · Feb 18, 2007 @ 9:32am

It would be great if instead of limiting one shark per day, if it were a weight limit. Or it would be nice, perhaps, if one catches a pregnant shark and chooses to let it die instead of releasing it, a ban on shark fishing is instated for one day per every pup unborn.
   comment# 5   - Angel · FL, USA · Apr 2, 2007 @ 7:12pm

How about everybody against this guy worry about your own lives. He didn't do anything wrong. If you have a problem contact your local fish and game and see about changing the laws. Until then...
   comment# 6   - cb · FL · May 14, 2007 @ 1:38pm

Rare fish, what are you taliking about, it's a hammerhead shark they are very abundant in the southern hemisphere, I could understand if it were a talking fish, your right some folks just don't get it, most are related to Al gore and worry about make believe problems
   comment# 7   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska Texas · Jun 14, 2007 @ 8:20pm

what kind of gear did he use. i thought that it wasnt a record cause the line he used was over the regulation
   comment# 8   - Marc · Cape Coral Florida, U.S · Jun 16, 2007 @ 9:46pm

A real sportsman would have eaten the pups as well. they would have fed a lot of hungry people
   comment# 9   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska Texas · Jun 18, 2007 @ 9:51am

Robert Rolin; you're a less than intelligent person and you have no idea what your talking about, every little helps in this world, so why don't you wake up and smell the coffee?!? As the so called 'apex predator' you name us, and as the most advanced species we should realise that we need to conserve our world and everything in it - were killing it as we speak. We're not the only ones that live here. Next time your in the water I hope a shark bites you, and so giving us one less negative person in this world.
   comment# 10   - Rowland Morris · Plymouth, England · Jul 16, 2007 @ 9:30am

I was in the Gulf of Mexico saturday and sunday, caught 2 black tip sharks and kept one to eat.They are very good deep fried. The one we kept was around 3 ft long. Another fisherman down the beach caught 6 and released 5. Every time I have gone fishing down at the Texas coastline for the past 4 years I have caught more sharks then I have caught in the last 20 years even when fishing the Texas bays for trout and redfish. We catch mostly black tips but also hammerheads and shovelheads fishing with live shrimp for other fish. You Mister R.Morris obviously Don't know what your talking about your just following the other fanatical whackos that put fish life in front of human life. Endangered species should be protected but all shark species are not in peril and in Texas waters they are thriving. This magnificient shark was caught and died and the offspring were big enough to eat and in my opinion should have been eaten along with the giant hammerhead instead of wasting all that fish. Texas fishermen do more for conservation then you greenies ever do. By the way I swam with my son and my nephew out to the third sandbar all weekend and have done so my entire life sorry no shark bite but a blue crab pinched my sons toe, he's 19 so no worries. Advocating the death of a human is the most negative thing there is R Morris from Plymouth England, Keep on fishing it's great family sport
   comment# 11   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska , Texas · Jul 16, 2007 @ 7:08pm

I'm not saying that fishing isn't fun and should be banned, all I have to say is that fishing endangered species should be banned. we need to conserve what we have left of these magnificent creatures for the future.
   comment# 12   - Rowland Morris · Plymouth, England · Jul 20, 2007 @ 3:05am

I have to disagree with your comment "ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY IS THAT FISHING ENDANGERED SPECIES SHOULD BE BANNED" IS ALL YOU HAVE TO SAY MR MORRIS. First you insulted me then you conveyed your hope of my death by a shark. I will always put human life before any species of animals unless a poacher on land or sea put's another human life at risk like a park ranger or coast gaurd etc. doing their jobs protecting wildlife. Hammerhead sharks are not endangered and rod and reel fishing isn't going to cause the extinction of sharks or any other fish, Keep on fishing it's great family sport.
   comment# 13   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska , Texas · Jul 22, 2007 @ 8:33pm

Nice catch! All i got to say is i am glad that monster is no longer in the water.
   comment# 14   - Jason · Texas City · Jul 31, 2007 @ 9:35pm

Firstly Mr. R. Rolin, I did not convey your death by a shark, I merely said that I hope one bites you - it might not be fatal (get your facts right before you send a retort). Secondly, and finally, we clearly have different views about the changing world in which we live.
   comment# 15   - Rowland Morris · Plymouth, England · Aug 1, 2007 @ 12:26pm

OK, Mister get your facts right before a retort. Heres your quote,"I hope a shark bites you and so giving us one less negative person in this world" now come on is that not hoping I die, why would there be one less person after a shark bite? You are right we have different views but I only wish you a happy life, keep on fishing it will be happier
   comment# 16   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska , Texas · Aug 1, 2007 @ 4:14pm

that shark is a monster size hammer head never saw one that big before
   comment# 17   - gary neilly · scotland · Aug 11, 2007 @ 1:23pm

Robert Rolin)______5 Rowland Morris_____-5 got to love it
   comment# 18   - cb · florida · Aug 16, 2007 @ 2:54pm

Call me a **tree Hugger** if you like, but the Great Hammer head IS on the *RED LIST* I can't bring myself to congratulate you.. Why not *catch and release?* Not that that is a guarantee that the shark would have lived.. ANYWAY.... To Mr. Robert Rolin, YOU should get YOUR facts straight before YOU begin to speak: GREAT HAMMERHEAD SHARK. Endangered, previously insufficient data. The sharks' fins are prized as a delicacy, hammerheads also suffer from getting entangled in nets and only breed once every two years. Numbers in the eastern Atlantic may have crashed by 80 percent in the last 25 years. That is as of Wed Sep 12, 2007 12:29PM EDT..
   comment# 19   - M.Kaufmann · Ca · Sep 13, 2007 @ 6:42am

Is MAY HAVE A fact, I dont think so. The fact is hammerheads are not on any endangered or protected species list and rod and reel fishing isnt going to cause the extinction of any fish.Keep on fishing, but you'll have to loose that tree, it's great family sport.
   comment# 20   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska ,Texas · Sep 13, 2007 @ 5:02pm

I understand if we, as the dominant species hunt for food, but why is there such an urge to prove our domination? What a waste of natural resources.
   comment# 21   - Joi · Atchison, US · Dec 7, 2007 @ 12:54pm

the great hammerhead shark IS on an endangered list. fishing does cause fish species to decrease in abundance and if you went outside fishing you would know that fishing isnt the only method to catching fish species...humans are causing habitat destruction and will eventually kill off every other living organism out there because we are "superior" then what will you be fishing?
   comment# 22   - Sydney · Santa Barbara,US · Dec 9, 2007 @ 9:15pm

You are dillusional Syd. Sure there are global problems, some are created by humans some are just part of the nature of a burning rock of molten lava spinning in orbit around a gas filled orb in a vast and marvelous universe. Men fishing in our oceans with a 6foot to 8foot pole with a chunk of bait on a single hook are not going to cause any species of FISH in our oceans to go extinct or endanger their population. I will be fishing with my kids and grandkids for a long while yet,God willing, and if any species of Fish is put on an endangered list any good sportsman would release it if they hooked it, the Hammerhead obviously isn't are these men would be facing charges are fines not posing for camaras. Keep on fishing, relax, everythings gonna be alright.
   comment# 23   - Robert Rolin · Onalaska ,Texas · Dec 10, 2007 @ 9:29pm

Good harvest. Nice to see, since these fish are way way overpopulated on the lower SW Gulf coast, especially the Boca Grande area. They have no natural predators, similar to the Goliath Grouper. Time to clean out more of these, and more Goliath as well. Not everywhere, but certainly here since we are the most heavily populated area in the entire state, by a huge margin, with regards to these two species. Anyone can go online and see the FWC and Fla. state reports on Goliath populations. Check out the waters off of Marco Island. WOW
   comment# 24   - Fsh N Fn · Marco Island, FL · Jan 26, 2008 @ 3:30am

oh my gosh i love all the details i am a big fan of sharks. that shark was huge it was asume!!!!!!!!!!!!!!my brother loved too keep on catching big sharks. love julia 12 years old
   comment# 25   - julia maciel · wi, racine · Mar 27, 2008 @ 5:25pm

I have been going down to captiva for years and fishing in boca grande pass. There has always been monster hammerheads down there. I talked to a local and he was telling me about the monster hammerhead that had been spotted several times over the last 15 years the sharks nickname was "Hitler". He said sometimes when the pass gets crowded with boats keep your eye out for about a 3 foot dorsal fin above the trolling between the boats I thought he was crazy. Nevertheless about 2 years later I believe I seen Hitler I went down to watch a tarpon tournament and sure enough I spotted this huge dorsal fin cutting between the boats like a submarine. The shark would surface the water for minutes at a time then disappear. The shark never came close to my boat so I couldn't see how long the shark really was but its dorsal fin looked bigger than JAWS. I wonder if this shark that was caught was the infamous HITLER. Nice catch this is one less shark to eat the tarpon off the end my line!!!
   comment# 26   - Jay · saint cloud Florida · May 27, 2008 @ 11:28am

I am a local and I live on Knight island just north of Boca Grande. I fish the Boca Grande Pass regularly. There are huge sharks that follow these tarpon around. This was the biggest shark I have ever seen. The people that caught this shark were actually going after one bigger then this one. They did not see this one when they hooked it. The body of this shark went to research, they will learn more about them and if needed protect them. Keep on Fishing and following the rules.
   comment# 27   - Dennis Johnson · Palm Island Florida · May 5, 2009 @ 2:13pm

Robert Rolin, I'm a fisheries biologist and you obviously know nothing about shark population dynamics or fisheries management. I hope you get eaten by a pregnant shark out for revenge myself. If we waited until every animal was endangered before finding a reason not to kill it, this world would be a very sad and depauperate world indeed.
   comment# 28   - Percy · Olympia, WA · May 8, 2009 @ 7:48am

Catch and Release.... why don't they get it? For years in the late 70's through late 80's we caught so many fish off the Gulf Coast, and the schools of Menhaden were as far as the eye could see. Then in the 90's those schools diminished and then disappeared. Along with them, the bigge fish disappeared as well. I've caught my share of Hammerheads, big and small, I released them all.... I am all for records, but take pictures and video the darn thing. Let it back out there....
   comment# 29   - Bill · Biloxi, MS · May 25, 2009 @ 10:25pm

great show on the worldwide web called the hammerhead run gives a great insight to these great beasts i give it 9/10 cud be called the great hammerhead show down in the usa. peace
   comment# 30   - gary · belfast uk · Aug 28, 2010 @ 6:42am

What a waste, this is a beautifull animal. I totally agree with Percy (I'm a wildlife management student myself) that Mr Rolin clearly doesn't understand what he is talking about.. It makes me really sad that these are the people we have to share our planet with, that we try so hard to protect. Of course you can go fishing with your family but don't fish on endangered species...
   comment# 31   - Elske · The Netherlands · Oct 20, 2010 @ 10:55pm

THIS TRULY SADDENS ME. This is my first time voicing my opinion. These fishermen need to be treated as they treat these majestic creatures of the deep.
   comment# 32   - cecilio ramos · las cruces new mexico · Oct 31, 2010 @ 9:52am

that is so mean! leave it alone!!
   comment# 33   - leanne · england · Feb 14, 2011 @ 9:50am

this sickens me!this is my first time posting and i have to say!!!come on!who ever did that should be killed!!how would u like it!
   comment# 34   - leanne young · lincoln,england · Feb 14, 2011 @ 9:53am

BaHAHAHAHAHAH "this sickens me" hahaha what a LOSER!!!!!!
   comment# 35   - Tony c · Regina, Canada · Mar 28, 2011 @ 2:12am

Would someone please post a link to the accurate count of how many sharks there are in the ocean? I can't find it any where. When you catch a record or a trophy you should be able to keep it, does anyone know how many this guy caught and released? I'm guessing more than he kept.
   comment# 36   - Mike G · Wilmington, NC · Aug 20, 2011 @ 9:37am
- Editor: Estimates vary, but generally they say it's about the same as the number of angels you can fit on the head of pin. No one knows.

I have lived in Tampa bay my whole life a single hook on a single line will never hurt a species it is only longliners and other commercial methods I have seen them unload thousands of grouper for 3 hours then another did the same thing have you heard of shark fin soup a Chinese delicacy cut the fins off and let the shark go that is wasteful but once I saw a school of tarpon and at least a hundred juvenile great hammerhead off in the shipping channel they kept falling off or cutting the line.
   comment# 37   - Tony d jr · Maderia beach, Fl · Jan 21, 2012 @ 10:25am

Liberal peta people malarkey ticks me off. what about all those "majestic animals" that shark ate to get that big. Dudes and dudettes stop being so hypocritical. What about the poor "majestic" stingray in that sharks belly. Dear madam dead hammerhead you are so horroble, mean, and terrible for being such a big fat meany and eating all those poor innocent fishys. How dare you. Will the peta people write such a comment on this forum or send these mean sharks a angry letter or an email? No! Why not? Because they are FISH and not people! We were made,in Gods image and they were not! Fishy life and other animal life is not equal to human life. Really this guy is no less mean then the guy who catches a bass or a catfish. Only those fish arnt as dangerous. Sharks have there place, and shouldnt be exterminated. They keep fishy population in check and scavenge dead fish and whales keeping the ocean clean...but lets keep this in prospective. Hammerheads arnt endangered. They are fish!
   comment# 38   - Jason · iowa city, usa · Feb 26, 2013 @ 12:44pm

Hey fishy biologist and other assorted homocidal hypocrites...lets say i caught a trout or a salmon...would you hope i would drown or get eaten by mutant seabass or a school of piranas or a pregant hammerhead with a laser attached to its head? A fish is a fish. None of the animals listed are endangered....including hammerheads. This guy didnt have to donate the fishy to science, he could have had it mounted, I would have.
   comment# 39   - Jason · iowa city, usa · Feb 26, 2013 @ 1:09pm

You cant fit angles on the tip of a pin. The few angles that have manafested themselves physically that have been recorded historically have manifested in corporial human form, although they are much more powerful then human beings and they are spirit they can take on physical form. The smallest are the size of the average human (although maybe they choose to appear that way for convenience) some are gigantic. None would ever fit on the head of a pin. Typical case of "philosophoers" trying to sound intelligent, like they know what they are talking about. You know how big a seriphim could be. I have heard a story of a Pastor who preyed for protection and looked out the window to see a angle that looked human but was gigantic. I forget I think he said it was 13 or 15 feet tall. Try fitting one of those on the hwad of a pin
   comment# 40   - Jason · iowa city, usa · Feb 26, 2013 @ 4:03pm

I live about 10 miles from where this fish was caught. I saw on the news last night that this same angler was fishing in the Pass with his son yesterday and his son caught a hammerhead that weighed over 1000 lbs. and was between 12 & 13 feet long. They released it after the son battled it for 70 minutes he said in the interview on the news. There are many species of sharks in these waters and many are very good eating. Almost no one harvests sharks if they have one in their freezer. The population of many species is way down no thanks to the finners. I used to fish these waters with my Grandpa when I was young (1954-1969) and the sea life was abundant then. The water was crystal clear with sawfish (about 6 feet long) and manta rays both longer and wider than our 15 foot boat. There were many sharks down there and schools of jelly fish. It was like a floating aquarium. Most of that is a distant memory now. But in the spring, the tarpon are in the pass. When the Tarpon are there the hammerhead and bull sharks will be there too, just like they have for thousands of years. Hopefully, that will continue but I can see that the habitat in the harbor isn't nearly as clean and the fish aren't as abundant as 50 years ago. There seems to be some confusion in some of these posts as to what fish are legal to harvest here. From yesterday's Waterline: NO HARVEST SPECIES: Zero bag limit for Goliath Grouper (Jewfish), Sawfish, Spotted Eagle Rays, Lemon Sharks, HAMMERHEAD SHARKS
   comment# 41   - Bill · Port Charlotte, FL · Apr 26, 2013 @ 8:21pm
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