1,300-pound shark could be among record catches, official says
If the 1,323-pound mako shark hooked off the coast of Huntington Beach checks out, it would not only set a new world weight record but would also rank in the top half-percent of catches on file, officials said.
Jack Vitek is the world records coordinator for the International Game Fish Assn., the Florida-based group that has regularly tracked world-record catches since 1939, with some dating to the 1860s.
He confirmed that if Monday’s catch meets the group’s requirements, it would break the standing mako record set in July 2001, when a 1,221-pound shark was hauled in off the coast of Chatham, Mass.
It takes about two months for the IGFA to verify domestic catches, Vitek said. The fishermen must submit an application including basic information about the catch, along with photos and the actual tackle used, and the scale must meet requirements. For big catches, he said, witness testimony is usually also required.
And this catch is “enormous,” he said. “Absolutely.”
Of the 6,850 world records the IGFA has on file, only 23 involve fish topping 1,300 pounds, Vitek said. That means the Huntington Beach mako would fall within the top half-percent.
The largest catch on record was a 2,664-pound great white shark reeled in off the coast of Australia in 1959, Vitek said.
“Seeing a fish over 1,000 pounds -- whether it’s a shark, a tuna or a billfish -- it’s extremely rare,” he said.
“They’re a very elite game fish, and to have the all-tackle IGFA record is any kind of big game angler’s dream,” he said. “There may or may not be anything tangible in terms of financial reward or endorsement, but just having that credit to your name and having that honor is pretty big.”
Kent Williams, who owns the New Fishall Bait Co. in Gardena, where the mako was being held, said the fishermen who caught the shark would be in contact with the IFGA about the potential record.
Williams said the captain of the boat, Matt Potter -- known as “Mako Matt” -- has been a customer for years and buys thousands of dollars worth of bait. About 3 p.m. Monday, Williams received a text from Potter: “I think we got one over a grand, finally.”
At least two videographers involved in an Outdoor Channel reality television show -- “Jim Shockey’s The Professionals” -- were on the fishing boat and the massive catch is already being promoted online.
Corey Knowlton, one of the co-hosts of the show, described the shark to KTLA-TV Channel 5: “It’s basically like a giant nightmare swimming around.”
Makos are common off the coast of Southern California, which is considered a “nursery ground” for the young sharks, according to Nick Wegner, a fisheries research biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They tend to stay in open-ocean area -- they don’t come to the surf zone and “very rarely have any interactions with people,” Wegner said, though fishermen commonly catch smaller makos between 2.5 and 6 feet long.
“Encountering one this big is rare,” he said.
David McGuire, director of Shark Stewards, a Bay Area-based nonprofit that advocates for the protection of sharks, said he believed the mako should have been released.
“I’m a little shocked by it,” he said. “It’s really something you see more in Florida than in California, where we have more of a conservation ethic.”
He said he “certainly would object” to a catch set up for a television show.
“People should be viewing these sharks as wonderful animals that are important to the ocean and admiring how beautiful they are,” he said, not “spilling their blood and guts.”
“These kind of reality shows are not reality. The reality is we’re overfishing sharks and this macho big-game attitude should be a relic of the past,” he said. “This is not entertainment. It’s not right, in my view.”
Responding to criticism about the catch, Potter said they abided by fishing laws.
“It’s just like any other fishing,” he said. “The state limit for mako is two per person per day. We only kept one mako for a total of 18 passengers out there three days.” The rest were released, he said.
Another fisherman on board, Jason Johnston, said that catching the shark isn’t hurting the population.
“There are not that may sharks being taken out of the water,” Johnston said. “It’s not hurting the population. If we pull four fish out of the water per year, that’s just four.”
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