*This article contains graphic imagery that may be disturbing to some viewers – viewer discretion advised*
Recently the Grubbs lab shark team witnessed a very real reminder of the harm plastic waste causes marine animals. While conducting their annual coastal shark surveys in Apalachicola Bay, Florida, graduate students Blake Hamilton and Cheston Peterson, assisted by FSUCML staff Cullen Morris and Barry Walton, caught a 244 cm (~8ft) adult female bull shark with a plastic packing strap wrapped around her head. She had begun growing into the strap, as it was deeply cutting into her body under her pectoral fins and above her head on her dorsal side. The team was able to safely remove the strap and released her, each hoping for a strong recovery. Despite their impressive resilience and ability to persist under such conditions, sharks – like many marine fauna – can be killed or harmed by marine debris and entanglement. Please use this as a reminder to responsibly dispose of plastic waste and minimize use of such materials. Additionally, please be sure to cut all looped products (e.g. six-pack rings, mask straps, packing straps, ropes/nets) before disposing.