The underwater footage shows the shark – which had just been released by researchers some 30 miles off the Outer Banks – gnawing at the side of the commercial fishing vessel’s hull.
The shark eventually stopped without doing any real damage to the boat, The Charlotte Observer reported Thursday. The crew from Arizona State University’s Sulikowski Shark and Fish Conservation Lab recorded the incident on April 17.
“It was pretty awesome,” James Sulikowski told the Observer’s parent company, McClatchy News. “We were excited to see it being released in great condition, then to see it turn around in typical mako fashion and bite the boat was spectacular. It was making a statement: ‘You caught me, now I’m going to catch you so we’re even.'”
The shark is a juvenile and 4-foot-long. Sulikowski said that he believes the attack was a defensive warning “to make sure we knew it had teeth and to leave it alone.”
This shark was one of 19 the team caught and tagged during their four-day expedition, the largest of which was 8 feet long.
All of the 19 had been caught unintentionally in commercial pelagic longline fishing gear, according to Sulikowski.
Sulikowski and two graduate students had partnered with the fishing boat to see how many mako sharks would be caught in fishing lines and if they survived.
The sharks, native to the area, were fitted with research tags that would “pop off” after a 28-day period.
“We did not observe any post-release mortality. All indications now are that makos have a high survival rate,” Sulikowski added.
“Makos are a very hot topic and high priority species now, because the population is on the decline. There … is a petition to see if makos should be listed as a threatened or endangered species in U.S. waters,” he said. “Our work is helping understand and mitigate interactions with pelagic longline fishing gear.”
In a joint release from The Ocean Foundation and Shark Advocates International, the organizations wrote on April 15 that the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had announced a “90-day finding” that a Defenders of Wildlife petition had presented “substantial information” indicating that listing shorftin mako under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be warranted.
The groups noted that makos are classified as Endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List and that scientists estimate North Atlantic shortfin makos could take five decades to recover.
A final determination on ESA listing is due by January of next year, the release said.