A whale of a tale
|The dead whale (upper left) floats in the water alongside the rope that entangled and eventually killed it, as a tiger shark (bottom right) prepares to attack the whale carcass. (Photo by Craig Cradlin)|
On August 11, local fisherman Craig Cradlin was fishing with friends in the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras, N.C., and had a personal “Shark Week” experience.
The group was 35 miles offshore in 300 feet of water when Cradlin noticed small fish pieces in the water, as if someone was chumming nearby. A few seconds later, a 12-foot tiger shark swam within a few feet of the boat. Then, an even larger tiger shark passed by going in the opposite direction.
The sudden shark activity caused Cradlin and his friends to realize something was going on in the area. It was at this point the fisherman noticed a large object in the water and went to investigate. What they discovered was a 40-to-50-foot whale that had been tangled in several hundred feet of one-inch polypropylene rope. Unfortunately, this entanglement caused the whale to die.
In an effort to make sure the rope harmed no other marine animals, the fisherman cut away as much of the rope that they could safely reach. However, this activity was hindered by at least a dozen or more tiger sharks that were feeding on the whale.
After completing the removal of the rope, and as they were starting to leave, the anglers sighted another unusual marine organism. Drifting past the boat was a Portuguese man-of-war, which is one of the most dangerous marine organisms.
Cradlin came away from the amazing experience with an appreciation for how mankind’s actions affect marine life. “In order for all fishermen to be responsible stewards of the sea we have a responsibility to make sure we never throw anything overboard that could be harmful to marine life, especially plastic bags, lengths of rope or mono-filament fishing line,” he said.