Popular Science

The U.S. protects alpha predators, but its most famous shark hunter isn't out of business yet

Sportsmen like Mark the Shark adjust to the era of catch-and-release deep-sea fishing.

Standing still is apparently no way to hook a shark. On a sunny Tuesday in May, I’m with Mark Quartiano, a fishing charter captain who unabashedly catches and kills these marine predators. We’re 5 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast aboard Striker-1, his 50-foot vessel, and prospects are good. The spring months usually yield great catches, so long as I don’t buck superstition.

“Don’t be a mannequin,” he says. “Move around. It’s bad luck not to.”

Andrew in fishing boat seat

The writer and his catch: an 8-foot scalloped hammerhead.

Courtesy of Andrew Zaleski

Soon, Ryan Wallach, Quartiano’s fishing buddy since 1996, rushes to the stern, where a resting fishing rod has just dipped, the telltale sign a shark’s on the line. Looking at me, Wallach shouts, “Get in the chair!” — an elevated, cushioned seat with a footrest for bracing oneself when wrestling large ocean creatures. I scramble up as he moves the heavy-duty rod from the stern to the chair, hooking it into place in front of me. I have 1,500 meters of tough nylon to work with, and for the next 20 minutes, I steadily reel it in, until the outline of an 8-foot hammerhead peeks through the water’s surface.

“Scalloped hammerhead,” Quartiano says, pointing out the in the cephalofoil, the term for its flattened, tool-shaped skull. Then he reaches into the water, grabs the shark’s head,

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