A 22-year-old man who picked up an illegally caught tiger shark and posed for photos in the shallow waters of the Chassahowitzka River in Florida on Saturday became a target of online criticism and outright rage when the photo was posted on social media.
But the two men who were involved in making the illegal catch and dragging it by the tail alongside their boat into the river from the Gulf of Mexico are the ones facing second-degree misdemeanors, according to FOX 13 in Tampa Bay.
Onlookers were outraged when they saw the tiger shark dragged into the river and held up for photos, and several reported the incident to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
“We see the boat come in,” Jamie Causey told FOX 13. “He has a shark. I can’t tell the type or size; [it] was tied off to the front of his boat.”
She said the shark was alive and dragged to the spring where it became a prop for photos as “they start tormenting it, holding it in different positions, taking pictures.”
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Joseph Wilson saw the shark and approached the fishermen.
“I’ve never seen one before,” he told the Citrus County 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.”
He posted the photo on Facebook, and someone shared it on the Real Florida hunting and fishing page. It wasn’t long before commenters were aiming their wrath at Wilson.
“People are chewing me a new one right now,” Wilson told the Chronicle. “I’m an animal lover. I would never do anything to hurt one.”
When he learned it was illegal to take a tiger shark, Wilson himself was upset.
“I called FWC myself,” he told the Chronicle. “I was scared to death. I’m not a troublemaker. I love marine wildlife.”
Photos of Wilson and another man holding the shark, along with witnesses reporting what happened, prompted the FWC to investigate.
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“The FWC is aware of the incident that took place over the weekend on the Chassahowitzka River involving a tiger shark,” FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said in a statement, as reported by the Chronicle. “The FWC takes this very seriously and is grateful to everyone who reported this incident. Tiger sharks are prohibited from harvest in state waters.”
The agency identified the two fishermen and issued notices to appear in court where they will face charges.
Parker told the Chronicle that Wilson will not be charged.
Photo courtesy of Real Florida hunting and fishing Facebook page.
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