The fisherman thought he was catching an average sevengill shark, but he was in for a surprise once he got it on board.
A fisherman from Australia witnessed the circle of life when he hauled his catch onto his boat only to find out it was pregnant.
Matthew Orlov was fishing off the coast of Barwon Heads, in Victoria, Australia when he hooked an eight-foot-eight-inch sevengill shark. The shark had been attacked by another shark and was dead by the time he reeled it in, but when he did he noticed that the stomach of the animal seemed to be moving.
“As soon as she was on the boat we saw the seven bite marks from another shark,” he said. “I could feel through the line when she was being attacked. As soon as we pulled it up I knew was mauled by another shark.”
Orlov said that was when his instincts kicked in. Using a knife, he cut into the abdomen of the dead shark and removed her pups, becoming increasingly alarmed as more and more tiny shark babies spilled out. In total, 98 pups were rescued from the belly of the shark in just nine minutes.
“When I saw the belly moving, instinct kicked in,” he said. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ve fishing long enough to know we needed to get the pups out as quickly as possible. It was a very overwhelming feeling when they started popping out, I got this adrenaline rush. I was just dumbfounded there was so many, we counted 98.”
It is not known how the little pups are faring on their own, but according to Orlov, they swam away from the boat “quite healthily.”
After releasing the babies, Orlov took the mother shark home, cooked it, and ate it.
“As a fisherman, I catch fish to eat,” he said. “The meat from this shark fed lots of my family members. Some people online have said I should have just thrown it back, but they don’t understand how sharks work.”
While the number of shark pups seems high, for a sevengill shark it’s actually quite common. The fish can live for up to 30 years in the wild and often give birth to large litters of 80-95 pups.