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What Caused The Mysterious Death Of 100 Baby Hammerhead Shark 'Pups' Near Hawaii Lagoon?

What Caused The Mysterious Death Of 100 Baby Hammerhead Shark 'Pups' Near Hawaii Lagoon?

Most people will never have the chance to see a hammerhead shark in the wild, let alone a dead one. But passersby near Oahu's Keehi Lagoon in Hawaii this week were greeted to a strange and unfortunate sight: over 100 deceased hammerhead "pups."

Samuel Etrata, who works nearby, described the scene to KHON:

I see sharks right from here and then I walked farther and I see all this fish, the sharks across this barricade. It is very shocking, yeah.

Summer months cross paths with hammerhead "pupping season," when female sharks swim close to shore to birth their children. The area around Keehi Lagoon is the perfect place for this, but also happens to be prime waters for fishermen.

Authorities believe these baby sharks were caught up in a fishing net and deposited near the La Mariana Sailing Club.

Marine experts suspect the fishermen were using a gill net, which is historically known to catch unsuspecting endangered species. Once the baby sharks are caught up in the net, they are unable to move. Since sharks must move forward to circulate air through their gils, the pups suffocate in a matter of minutes, according to Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium:

To breathe they have to keep moving so once they're in the net for even two to three minutes, they're unable to breathe and they suffocate.

These hammerheads happened to be an endangered subspecies known as scalloped hammerhead sharks. Scalloped hammerhead nurseries can be found throughout the Keehi Lagoon and are protected by the Hawaii Marine Laboratory Refuge.

Despite the outrage of killing these young sharks and dumping them like garbage, there is no active legislation making such acts illegal. There's one pending bill proposed to the Hawaii State Senate by Senator Mike Gabbard which "establishes penalties and fines for any person who knowingly captures, kills, or takes any shark within state marine waters and makes it a misdemeanor."

Hawaii national congressman Tulsi Gabbard commented to KHON:

I'm sick to my stomach about what's happened today. It's really giving me the incentive to make sure that this bill gets passed in 2019.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources is asking anyone with knowledge of the deceased sharks to step forward.

H/T - Motherboard, KHON