Conservation officials: 15-foot great white shark found on Florida beach had fishing hook in mouth

Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
great white shark

New details are coming out about the female great white shark, originally believed to be pregnant, that washed ashore on a Florida beach.

According to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, the great white shark was about 30 years old and, despite her 15-foot length, was not fully grown.

great white shark

The shark washed ashore at Navarre Beach on Friday, and it didn’t take long for the news to spread.

Alex Fox, a marine biologist from the NBSTCC, and Paige Douglas from the Gulf World Marine Institute were some of the first who responded to the scene. Navarre Beach Fire Department volunteers Bob and Tony, along with sheriff’s deputies, were not far behind.

Michelle Passerotti, who works as a research fish biologist with NOAA’s Fisheries Apex Predators Program, explained what has happened since then.

“She was transported to the Panama City Lab Friday, and yesterday I video conferenced in to help direct the necropsy and coordinate collection of a huge number of biological samples,” said Passerotti.

great white shark

NOAA and OCEARCH are a couple of the organizations that will benefit from the samples collected.

“We collected data and samples to send for a full pathology workup to help determine the cause of death. A fishing hook was embedded in her jaw, so post-release mortality is one possibility,” said Passerotti.

Despite her impressive size and weight, the originally reported pregnant shark wasn’t fully mature by the time she died.

“Early news stories reported her to be pregnant (she was very girthy), at around 15 [feet] in length, she was actually still immature. Female white sharks mature around 33 years of age, so she was probably 30ish years old and on the cusp of maturity,” said Passerotti.

great white shark
Crews from Navarre Beach Fire Rescue removing a great white shark from a Florida beach. CREDIT: Navarre Beach Fire Rescue

Passerotti explained how seldom these opportunities are and how they can really benefit researching an animal that most people never see.

“I speak for all the scientists involved when I express my gratitude to those who first reported the stranding, the volunteers with the Sea Turtle Center in Navarre and The Navarre Beach Fire Department who secured the carcass until enforcement could arrive, and FWC and NOAA OLE for transporting her to Panama City,” said Passerotti.

It’s not uncommon to see great white sharks in the Gulf of Mexico.

A couple of the great white sharks OCEARCH have tags on recently pinged in or around the Gulf, including Crystal and Jekyll.

NOAA said the species can live more than 70 years, grow to 21 feet long and can weigh 4,500 pounds.

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