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Viral photo of tiger shark capture prompts FWC investigation

Sen. Rick Scott is calling on the NOAA to work with FWC to investigate the allegations.
Credit: Uryadnikov Sergey - stock.adobe.com

CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Sen. Rick Scott had strong words Friday amid allegations that unidentified boaters had abused and later killed a young tiger shark in Citrus County.

Scott said he'd seen the "shocking images" and called them "abhorrent."

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received multiple reports from people concerned about what happened to the shark last weekend on the Chassahowitzka River.

Tiger sharks are not allowed to be harvested in Florida's waters, but The Orlando Sentinel reports this shark was gutted.

"FWC law enforcement officers have investigated this incident and have issued a Notice to Appear to two individuals for taking a prohibited species of shark," FWC told 10 Tampa Bay in a statement. "The two subjects currently have a Citrus County court date."

Now, Scott is asking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to offer any federal help possible to state FWC investigators.

"As a Floridian, I was disgusted when I learned of this incident," the senator wrote in a letter to the NOAA. "Our wildlife deserves to be protected and no animal in Florida deserves to be mistreated as these photos depict."

The FWC has indicated charges will not be filed against the man seen in one of the most widely-shared photos from that day. Speaking with the Citrus Chronicle, 22-year-old Joseph Wilson, of Lutz, said he and friends saw the tiger shark tied behind the boat after it was caught.

“I’ve never seen one before,” Wilson told the Chronicle. “He had a rope tied to its tail and it was still in the water. I said, ‘Can I take a picture of it?’, and he said, ‘Sure.’ I probably picked it up for about 10 seconds and then I put it back in the water.”

According to the paper, Wilson later learned that harvesting tiger sharks was illegal – something he said he had nothing to do with. But, his photo had already gone viral and sparked criticism.

“I called FWC myself,” he told the Chronicle “I was scared to death. I’m not a troublemaker. I love marine wildlife.” 

Anyone with additional information about this incident is asked to contact the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or Tip@MyFWC.com. You can remain anonymous. For more information about sharks, please visit their website here.

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