Shark Whose Head Was 'Slowly Being Sliced Off' by Plastic Strap Rescued by Scientists

A shark whose head was being "slowly sliced off" by a plastic strap it had become entangled in when younger has been rescued by scientists.

James Sulikowski, from the Shark and Fish Conservation Lab at the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at Arizona State University, was one of the scientists who captured the seven foot porbeagle shark in the Atlantic.

In a Facebook post, the lab said the shark had been growing for years with a plastic strap around its gills. "Photos ... show the female shark's head was slowly being sliced off by the unyielding strap," it said. "The piece of circular plastic had become lodged around her neck when she was younger. As she grew, it began to cut through her skin into her muscle, if we had not removed it, she surely would have died."

In a message to Newsweek, Sulikowski said the strap was probably one that would normally go around a bait box. "The box went overboard, and the porbeagle shark, when younger, ate the fish in the box," he said. "While doing so, [the] strap got wrapped around the sharks head. As the shark grew, the strap dug into the shark's flesh. If we didn't remove it, the shark would have surely died."

The photos of the shark being strangled follow the discovery of a dead minke whale that had been killed by a piece of fishing line. The male minke whale was found on a beach in Dennis, Massachusetts. The fishing line had become "wrapped around its head and through its mouth, creating a bridle," the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said in a Facebook post.

The IFAW said the initial autopsy suggests the whale died from injuries caused by the entanglement. It also said there were signs of possible infection. "The entanglement likely contributed to the cause of death, though additional lab results are pending."

Our Marine Mammal Rescue Team received a report of a recently deceased male minke whale stranded on a beach near Sesuit...

Posted by ifaw on Sunday, October 11, 2020

The problem of plastic pollution in the ocean is getting worse. It is thought there is currently over 150 million metric tons of plastic in the world's oceans, and more and more is entering every year. A report published earlier this year estimated the amount of plastic entering the ocean every year will have doubled by 2040, amounting to 600 million metric tons.

More than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals are killed every year by plastic waste.

"Plastic in all forms are an issue," Sulikowski said. "We need more research to understand the extent of the long term effects of this type of pollution."