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Scalloper liberates tangled nurse shark

David Torres of Shalimar said he was not fazed by the
approaching boat’s warning – “Shark!”

His family has seen many sharks in the waters of Gulf
County, where they have been coming to scallop for more than a decade, and he
had never heard of any shark attacks in the area.

But the next sentence from the other vessel caught his

“I think it has a rope attached to it.”

Torres decided his best course of action would be to get closer
and inspect the scene. Luckily, he said, the family’s fishing boat was
well-equipped after a day of scalloping. Within a few minutes, he had managed
to position his boat, hook the rope and cut the six-foot nurse shark loose. 

“We were able to set it free, it seemed happy and swam off
after biting my trolling motor,” Torres said. “Looked like it was gonna be
good to go once its cuts healed up, so we’re happy about that.”

A video taken by Torres’ wife, Kelly, showing the experience
has received over 223,000 views and 1,700 shares since being posted on Facebook
last Tuesday.

It was clear, Torres said, that the shark had been tangled
up for quite some time. The
15-to-20-foot, barnacle-encrusted rope hung around the shark’s neck
like a lasso and had left significant cuts on the animal’s pectoral
fins. The scalloper thought the shark might have been entangled
by fishers since there were hooks and 100-pound leader
caught in the rope. 

“I was just kind of perturbed,” he said. “I don’t have
a problem with people going out there and catching sharks and even tail roping
them as long as they’re gonna get the shark unhooked and get the tail
rope off of them and let them go.” 

Hook and line fishing is the
only permitted way to catch a shark in Florida
waters, according to Amanda Nalley, a public information specialist
at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission. But there is no Florida law prohibiting the use of
ropes to secure a non-protected species of shark caught in
a legal manner. 

It is common for fishers to use ropes to secure a shark
once they have reeled it in. However, usually fishers will try to
lasso a shark’s tail. 

Nalley said it was certainly possible that the shark had
been tangled in a fishing incident, but that there might be other
explanations. “He could have swam into something, you know, like a
rope that was fallen overboard.” 

Nevertheless, she said that Torres should be commended for
freeing the animal. 

Many of the viral video’s hundreds of comments offer praise
to Torres and his family for stepping in to help, calling the
man a hero. While Torres said he appreciated the positivity, he did not
feel as though he had done anything heroic. 

“There’s a lot of heroes, especially with everything going
on in the world, or halfway across the world right now,” he said. “If you’re
going to direct that hero stuff, direct it towards them, not some goofball
with a mullet untangling sharks.” 

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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