Are there ‘cocaine sharks’ off Florida’s coast?

An important hammerhead (not proven) was stated to be swimming lopsidedly (Picture: Shutterstock)


The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week 2023 begins on 23 July (Shark Week within the UK) and a brand new documentary, ‘Cocaine Sharks‘, is about to discover if sharks off the coast of Florida have been consuming medication which are usually dumped into the waters by smugglers.

Florida has lengthy been a port of entry for unlawful narcotics smuggled into the USA. The southeastern metropolis of Miami specifically – usually known as the ‘drug capital of the world’ in the course of the Eighties – was so overrun by the varied Central and South American cartels that the infamous gangster, Pablo Escobar, owned a mansion there.

Because of the long-established smuggling routes into Florida, the state’s coastal waters have turn out to be a dumping floor for narcotics – the results of failed shipments, destruction of proof, and secret caches deposited at depth, able to be collected by divers.

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In June alone, the US Coastguard landed greater than $186 million value of narcotics retrieved from the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic coast of America; at the start of July, the Miami Herald reported the discovery of 87lbs (40kgs) of cannabis and 62lbs (28kgs) of cocaine by two unbiased leisure boaters within the Florida Keys in the course of the July 4 vacation weekend.

With an unlimited quantity of identified unlawful medication being deposited within the water, British ‘heavy steel marine biologist’ and broadcaster Tom ‘The Blowfish’ Hird, and NOAA analysis scientist, Tracy Fanara, got down to uncover in the event that they had been having any impression on the native marine life.

Through the making of the ‘Cocaine Sharks’ documentary, the crew deposited pretend bales of medication into the water subsequent to pretend swans, and located that the pretend bales of medication had been focused first by the sharks. One shark was filmed swimming away with one of many bales between its enamel.

sandbar shark
A sandbar shark was stated to be fixated on one thing that wasn’t there (Picture: Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock)

One other experiment concerned dropping extra pretend bales of cocaine from an plane to simulate a real-life smuggling operation, which attracted the eye of tiger sharks, amongst others.

Hird and Fanara additionally dived with the sharks to see in the event that they exhibited any uncommon behaviour underwater. An important hammerhead, (Sphyrna mokarran), described as ‘swimming on the one aspect, nearly like she’s laden, [and] not fairly levelled’ approaches the crew instantly – which they describe an unusual behaviour for the species – and a sandbar shark (Carcharhinus plumbeus) seems to be swimming in tight circles close to to a shipwreck, apparently fixated on one thing that isn’t there.

Through the documentary, Hird and Fanara clarify that the outcomes of their experiments ‘[do not] essentially present that the sharks in Florida are consuming cocaine’, stating that there are a variety of various components which will clarify the bizarre behaviour.

Lopsided swimming might be defined by any variety of components. It’s generally seen in bony fish with swim bladder issues, and though sharks don’t have a swim bladder, it’s doable another harm or illness might need been affecting the shark’s buoyancy.

tiger shark about to eat an albatross
Tiger sharks should not significantly fussy eaters (Picture: Shutterstock)

Sharks are additionally extraordinarily delicate to electrical fields and have a eager sense of scent, so the sandbar shark swimming in circles might nicely have been fixated on one thing that the human divers merely couldn’t see.

There are, nevertheless, research that present marine life is more and more affected by medication within the water, each authorized prescription drugs and unlawful narcotics. A 2022 examine by the Bonefish and Tarpon Belief and scientists from the College of Florida discovered a complete of 58 completely different prescription drugs current in a pattern of 93 bonefish, with a mean of seven completely different chemical compounds per fish and one fish containing 17.

Among the many prescription drugs current within the fish had been blood stress medicines, antidepressants, antibiotics, ache relievers, antihistamines and opioids.

Nonetheless, the probabilities that the dumped cocaine and different medication are having some impression on the native wildlife is critical, and Hird stated he hopes the documentary will result in extra analysis within the space, together with tissue and blood sampling to find out if there’s cocaine – or different prescription drugs – current inside the sharks’ our bodies.

‘Cocaine Sharks’ will probably be broadcast on the Discovery Channel US at 10 pm (ET/PT) on Wednesday, 26 July; and 9 pm BST on Thursday, 27 July within the UK.

Mark 'Crowley' Russell
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