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Fisherman catches 100kg shark’s head and wonders what ate the rest of the shark

Donna Coutts, April 2, 2019 6:45PM Kids News

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A mako shark spotted off Sydney, NSW, in an area where there are large numbers of fish and other marine animals it preys on. media_cameraA mako shark spotted off Sydney, NSW, in an area where there are large numbers of fish and other marine animals it preys on.

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An Australian fisherman pulled in what he thought was a massive shark, only to find it was just the head.

His gruesome* discovery has intrigued* the world this week, going viral* on social media and making headlines right across Australia, in many overseas newspapers and even on CNN TV news in the US.

The mako shark, which would have been about 300kg when it was in one piece, had been eaten by something just as big, if not bigger, and the world is curious to know what.

Jasper Lay holding the 100kg mako head caught off the coast of Bermagui, NSW. Picture: Jason Moyce/Facebook media_cameraJasper Lay holding the 100kg mako head caught off the coast of Bermagui, NSW. Picture: Jason Moyce/Facebook

To top it off, the mako had the big bill of a marlin embedded* in its throat.

Commercial fisherman Jason “Trapman” Moyce, from Bermagui, on the NSW Far South Coast, was fishing for smaller species using fishing lines when he pulled in the 100kg head of a mako about 8km offshore from Bermagui. He didn’t see what had eaten the mako.

Though it is common to see sharks eaten by other sharks, this was surprising because mako sharks are such big and aggressive predators and this particular mako was a big one.

He guessed that it was eaten by an even bigger mako or a great white shark, though others have suggested it could have been a tiger shark.

Mr Moyce posted a photo on social media platform Facebook of his apprentice Jasper Lay — who had only been on the job for three weeks — holding the shark head.

Mr Moyce, who has been fishing in the area for eight years, told ABC that he felt “unnerved*” about being out in his boat in the ocean with something big enough to eat the mako.

“With the size of that shark head, makes you wonder what else is out there!!” Mr Moyce posted on Facebook.

Apart from the mystery of what ate the shark, there’s the matter of the marlin bill stuck in the mako’s throat.

The marlin bill that was stuck in the mako's throat. Picture: Jason Moyce/Facebook media_cameraThe marlin bill that was stuck in the mako’s throat. Picture: Jason Moyce/Facebook

Mr Moyce said the injury caused by the 30cm bill had healed, suggesting that the marlin attack had happened years ago.

“It just shows the amazing healing powers of sharks,” Mr Moyce told ABC.

“They’re quite an amazing creature, really.”

VIDEO: See the bill of the marlin found embedded in the mako’s throat. Credit: Jason Moyce, Facebook

MAKO SHARKS
There are two species of mako sharks: shortfin and longfin. Both species are types of mackerel sharks, are sometimes found off the coast of NSW and are both listed as endangered.

It is not known for sure which species Jason Moyce found, though it is more likely it was a shortfin mako from the size and because these are more common in these waters.

Shortfin mako are the fastest species of shark.

They are skilled predators that can chase down big tuna, swordfish, dolphins, seals and other sharks. They hunt by swimming below their prey and launching themselves vertically upwards.

Shortfins have been known to reach 600kg.

They live in water warmer than 16C, usually far from land.

MARLIN
This group of big fish are part of the Istiophoridae or billfish family, which includes blue and black marlin, sailfish and shortbill spearfish. They have long, bony, spiky bills and a long, rigid dorsal fin almost the length of the back. They have few predators, apart from sharks, killer whales and humans.

They are very fast, able to swim up to 80kmh.

BERMAGUI’S BIG FISH
Jason Moyce fishes in the ocean off the coast of Bermagui, on the Far South Coast of NSW.

At Bermagui, the continental shelf is just 20km from the shore, making it the closest point to the Australian mainland.

The continental shelf is a strip of shallow ocean around the continent of Australia and other continents on Earth that is an extension of the landmass. Once you get off the continental shelf, the ocean is much, much deeper.

The shallower water on the shelf gets more sunlight and many more plants and fish live there than live in the very deep ocean. Big fish come to the edge of the shelf for the abundant* feed.

Bermagui, NSW. Picture: Istock media_cameraBermagui, NSW. Picture: Istock

GLOSSARY

  • gruesome: grisly, frightful, horrid
  • intrigued: fascinated
  • viral: spread quickly, like a virus
  • embedded: stuck into
  • unnerved: make someone lose confidence
  • abundant: plentiful, lots of it

EXTRA READING

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Honour for shark victim turned saviour

Big shark jumps into family’s little boat

Big fish catches fishermen by surprise

Diver trapped in whale’s mouth … and lives

QUICK QUIZ

  1. How heavy was the mako head and how heavy could the whole shark have been?
  2. Is it likely that the marlin injured the shark recently? Why or why not?
  3. How heavy can a shortfin mako shark become?
  4. How fast can marlin swim?
  5. Why are there lots of big fish close to Bermagui?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Circle of Life
Create a food web to illustrate what eats/hunts/feeds on what other species in the ocean and why. Use the information from the Kids News article and research further if you have the time in class.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Write a one paragraph explanation of what you believe happened to this Mako shark.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalist has used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think ate the shark?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be shown until approved by editors.

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