Sharks rob anglers of their catches all the time. They’ll often follow a hooked fish all the way to the boat and rip it off the line at the last second, when both the angler and the fish are out of gas. Other times the shark will just take a bite out of the fish. All the angler gets is a bloody head and less meat for the cooler. It happens so frequently that deep-sea anglers have nicknamed this kind of shark “the taxman.”
In a video West Virginian Robbie Smelser posted to Instagram on June 14, a group of offshore fishermen get a close-up view of the taxman doing what the taxman does best. As one of the anglers fights to land a big tuna, a mako shark comes up to take his cut. The incident took place off the coast of Nags Head, North Carolina on a charter trip run by Fin Planner Sportfishing.
The short clip shows the nearly-10-foot mako shark sinking its teeth into the tuna right after one of the mates hits it with a gaff. A brief tug-of-war ensues. The mako whips the fish side-to-side while the mate tries to haul it over the gunnel. Not surprisingly, the shark wins the round. It rips the tuna off the gaff and breaks the line as it chomps down on the fish’s tail.
At the end of the video, what’s left of the bloody tuna floats up to the surface. The mate gaffs the head again and hauls it over the gunnel. Still a good tuna, it’s roughly two-thirds the size of its former self. The mate drops it into the fish box.
“Tax man taking his taxes,” one commenter says of the video.
Another jokes that it’s “shotgun time.” But there wasn’t much the anglers could do in this scenario because Atlantic shortfin makos are now a protected species. Last year the federal government re-classified the species as “overfished,” prompting a full ban on mako fishing in the Atlantic. (This ban also makes it illegal to intentionally harass or harm a mako shark.)
Under the new rule, which went into effect last July, both commercial and recreational fishermen in the Atlantic are prohibited from landing or retaining mako sharks. Any makos that are hooked or caught by accident must be released immediately. This rule applies regardless of whether the shark is dead or alive.