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Shark pulled out by lifeguards in Newport Beach was near death, likely wounded by commercial fishing net

A thresher shark pulled from the surf zone near Balboa Pier had been mortally wounded, likely from being caught in a commercial fishing net, a fish pathologist from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said after an examination.

The 4-foot juvenile was pulled from the water on Friday, Aug. 14, by Newport Beach lifeguards, who had seen it flopping in the surf line amid beachgoers. It was later euthanized by Newport Beach Animal Control. On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the pathologist’s findings were released by Newport Beach officials.

A video filmed by a television news helicopter that happened to be in the area had chronicled the scene and led to concerned comments on social media, said John Pope, spokesperson for Newport Beach.

“People were reacting and were understandably concerned,” he said. “We put out our statement to show this wasn’t an arbitrary decision by the lifeguards and that their training was followed.”

Pope said that by the time the lifeguards had the shark out of the water, its injuries were fatal.

“We wanted to show it was a humane decision rather than throw it back into the water where it wouldn’t survive,” he said.

The senior fish pathologist from the state wildlife agency examined the remains on Monday and determined the animal would not have made it back in the water, the city’s announcement said.

The pathologist said the shark had suffered a massive intracranial hemorrhage along with numerous abrasions and lacerations to it eyes, head, flanks and fins, Pope said.  The nature of the injuries strongly suggest  the animal was recently caught in a commercial fishing net.

Lifeguards found a second thresher shark in shallow water off Corona del Mar Beach later on Friday. That animal had less sever injuries and was returned to the water.

“When injured ocean wildlife is found on Newport’s beaches, city staff will either leave the animal undisturbed until it returns to the ocean or assist the animal while maintaining public safety,” Pope said.

This photo of an injured thresher shark was taken by a crew member aboard the Legacy, a charter boat operated by Newport Coastal Adventure on Friday, Aug. 14. The shark was swimming sideways and rubbing on the boat. (Photo courtesy of Newport Coastal Adventure)

Ocean entanglements, especially from fishing gear and nets, have plagued other sea life in recent months, as well. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescued three sea lions this year that required rehabilitation. Each of the animals was trapped in monofilament, hooks and fishing lines. Three other sea lions washed up on Orange County beaches with fishing gear injuries. PMMC’s rescue team, however, was able to free those animals at the beach.

Two weeks ago, wildlife photographer Mark Girardeau and Capt. Ryan Lawler were aboard the Shearwater, a boat with Newport Coastal Adventures, when they came across a 100-pound commercial ghost net floating a few miles off Laguna Beach. That net is now on display at the marine center to help educate the public about the dangers of old lines.

Source: Orange County Register

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