Activists decry record-setting mako shark catch

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News that a sport fisherman reeled in and kept a potentially record-setting mako shark off the Southern California coast is making waves with conservationists, who berated the catch because shark populations are vulnerable to overfishing worldwide.

The female shark, caught Monday off Huntington Beach, weighed about 1,323 pounds, the Associated Press reported. It was 11 feet long and had an 8-foot girth, said Kent Williams, a California-certified fish weight master and the owner of New Fishall Bait, where the shark was taken for frozen storage.

Jason Johnston, of Mesquite, Texas, caught the shark after a 2-1/2-hour battle, the Orange County Register reported.

If the catch is confirmed and meets conditions, it would exceed the 1,221-pound record mako catch made in July 2001 off the coast of Chatham, Mass., Jack Vitek, world records coordinator for the Florida-based International Game Fish Association, told the Los Angeles Times. It takes about two months for the association to verify domestic catches, he said.

Williams, who is storing the massive creature, told the AP that the meat normally would be donated to a local homeless shelter. Plans call for this one to be donated for research.

Under state law, anglers can take two such sharks per outing, but such large catches are exceedingly rare, Williams said. That’s mostly because even if an angler hooks such a large fish, very few are able to land it, Williams told the AP.

“There’s very few of these caught each year, but every time one’s caught, people make a big deal about it,” he said.

On Wednesday, angry callers from as far away as Australia were phoning Williams’ wholesale fish bait business to complain that he was storing the shark there.

The shark should have been released, David McGuire, director of the California-based protection advocacy group Shark Stewards, told the Times. “People should be viewing these sharks as wonderful animals that are important to the ocean and admiring how beautiful they are” rather than “spilling their blood and guts,” McGuire told the Times.

But any sport fisherman who has a potential world record is not going to release a catch, Williams said. “I don’t care what they say. If they have a potential world record, they’re going to take that fish — if they can.”

Only 23 of the 6,850 world records on file with the game fish association involve fish topping 1,300 pounds, Vitek said. The largest catch was a 2,664-pound great white shark that was taken in 1959 off the Australian coast.

“Seeing a fish over 1,000 pounds — whether it’s a shark, a tuna or a billfish — it’s extremely rare,” Vitek said.

Click here for the AP report and video.

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