By Liz Dwyer | Takepart.com April 21, 2014 4:19 PM
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 13:16:26 PDT
It’s not every day that you see an 11-foot-long, 805-pound shark at a gas station. But last week after Pensacola Beach, Fla., resident Cat West stopped for a fill-up and saw a ginormous fish hanging out of the back of a pickup truck, he snapped a photo that lit up social media. Now two Florida cousins are being lauded for possibly setting a world record for largest shortfin mako catch ever.
Earnie and Joey Polk, two fishermen who hold records from the International Land-Based Shark Fishing Association, say they intended to keep the catch a secret—they don't want their angling spots swarmed by record-seeking competition. But this particular shortfin mako was simply too large to stay hidden in the bed of their pickup.
“That’s probably the best fish we ever caught,” Earnie Polk told the Pensacola News Journal. “You’ll spend many, many hours to catch a fish of that caliber or a fish of that size.” Torpedo-like shortfin makos are known for being the fastest shark in the sea. They've been clocked at speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. They can also leap 20 feet in the air.
The duo say they normally tag and release the majority of sharks they catch (in 2013 they caught 300 sharks and kept 20 of them) as part of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. However, an hour-long fight with a hook wore out this particular shark too much for it to survive. In the above video you can see the big fish frantically flopping around after being caught.
Last year a study of shark, ray, and cartilage-containing fish species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found that only one-third of the species can be considered “safe” from extinction. The shortfin mako is one of the fish listed on IUCN’s Red List as “vulnerable” globally.
The shark the Polk cousins caught may have once been at the top of the ocean food chain, but it ended up being fried and served at a community barbecue. Shortfin makos are, along with other shark species, targeted across the world for both their meat and their fins. One hundred million sharks die every year.
Earnie Polk said what they do is “just a good pastime.” He said he and his cousin fish ethically. “We don’t do chumming whatsoever. We fish at night. We don’t fish on crowded beaches. We don’t fish anytime there are swimmers,” he said. “We don’t draw the fish to the beach. We just catch what swims by. The fishermen are there because the fish are there.”