Viral photographs of a decapitated shark that appeared on social media this week have sparked an investigation by authorities in Newport Beach, though wildlife officers said Wednesday it was unclear where and when the fish was mutilated.
Photographs of the juvenile great white shark appeared on social media this week, provoking public outrage. Although one Instagram post says the shark's head was found at Newport Beach Pier, officials said that was not the case.
"Our investigating officers determined it was not photographed at Newport pier," said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Chris Stoots.
It was unclear if the photograph was even taken in California, Stoots said.
“We are in the beginning stages of any type of investigation,” he said. “We are in the 'how, when, where and what' stage.”
Newport Beach spokesman Tara Finnigan said lifeguards confirmed that the shark was not photographed at the Newport Beach or Balboa piers. Those piers are concrete and the deck in the photograph appears to be wooden.
Other photos show the detached head of the small shark resting next to its body on a dock.
Shark conservationist Ocean Ramsey posted the photo, asking her followers for help in finding the person who mutilated the shark. She said the shark was found on the Newport Beach Pier.
“Killing something just to kill it, especially a protected species with already low populations it's a tragedy for not only marine ecosystems but for the greater ocean reliant community,” she wrote.
Chris Lowe, a professor of marine biology at Cal State Long Beach, said he was contacted to positively identify the carcass. He then notified Fish and Wildlife wardens.
In California, it is illegal to target and fish for great white sharks. That ban has existed since Jan. 1, 1994, according the Fish and Wildlife department.
“Fear has motivated the targeting and persecution of white sharks, and all sharks, for decades,” the department has said.
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