I'm in rehab right now to restore my knee, so I spend a lot of time in the lagoon in front of my faré (Tahitian house).
Since yesterday, from the shore, I had seen a fisherman using a net to catch fish. Today, I see him again accompanied by a second person and always at the same place.
Leaving the shore, I swim every day the same way to do my exercises. At that moment, I find myself face to face with the fisherman, his equipment and a blacktip shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus) dying at the bottom of the net.
I am surprised because sharks are protected in French Polynesia. I ask him if he has seen it and if he will release it. He answers that his grandfather takes care of it and didn't pay attention. Of course I don't believe a word of it.
It is then that I ask him to help me to free him, but it is difficult, the mesh of the net strangles the head and imprisons his pectoral fins. After long minutes, I free him and bring him back to the shore to get a foothold and help him to reoxygenate.
Being a cetacean specialist, I am not a great connoisseur of sharks and how to save them. But I am informed about many things concerning the marine environment. I had seen a report showing a dying shark being manipulated by a scientist. The goal is to move it so that it can oxygenate itself with its gills. This shark has a maximum size of two meters and has to be continuously moving because it has no gill muscles. It must therefore swim permanently to be able to breathe.
I tried for hours to move it but without success. A friend of mine, a shark specialist, came to me and confirmed its death. He told me that I had done the right thing and that this shark was a male.
Anyway, I'm disappointed that I didn't manage to save him, but I think the time to get him out of the net was fatal for him.
The worst thing is that the locals know very well that they should not be fished, but they don't care about the local laws. It took years for the government to act to protect the sharks, but there are still some diehards. This is unfortunate because the shark is the most endangered animal in the oceans.
Attached are some photos:
Rangiroa - French Polynesia - March 2009.