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Giant hammerhead shark catch: Is Florida angler hero or villain?

May 18, 2009 | 10:26 am

Hammerhead There's an interesting story in today's St. Petersburg Times about Capt. Bucky Dennis and the negative reaction regarding his recent catch of a 1,060-pound great hammerhead shark off Boca Grande, Fla.

Dennis shattered the 80-pound line-class world record. He already held the all-tackle world record, for his capture of a 1,280-pound hammerhead in the same area in 2006. That 14-foot shark was about  50 years old and contained 55 baby hammerheads.

Was Dennis, who had two clients aboard, within his right to catch and kill such a remarkable predator? Absolutely. Shark fishing is legal and the International Game Fish Assn. still accepts world record submissions for most species of sharks.

But was Dennis right to haul the shark aboard and kill it, merely for the sake of another record? That's debatable. This is an era of shark conservation and shark numbers around the world -- including hammerheads in the Gulf of Mexico -- are severely depleted.

Dennis, who releases most of the sharks he catches, could not even donate this latest catch for research. The Mote Center for Shark Research rejected the specimen because it did not want to encourage the killing of sharks--particularly large breeding females.

Bloggers and e-mailers assailed Dennis. They labeled him a coward and moron, those and other words not fit for print. One said, "A real fisherman wouldn't have killed such a beautiful machine."

Said Dennis: "Times have changed, I understand. A lot of people want to save the world."

--Pete Thomas

Photo of the 1,060-pound hammerhead courtesy of Julie Deibler