DNA analysis could help solve the mystery of the decapitated shark head allegedly found on a dock in Newport Beach in Orange County, California, state officials said on May 11.
Images of the shark head went viral on Instagram after two 16-year-old high school students from Huntington Beach reportedly discovered the object. Ocean Ramsey, a shark conservationist, also posted the photo to ask her followers to help find the person who mutilated the shark.
Although it was unclear what type of shark it was, some commenters pointed out it was the head of a great white shark. It is against the law to catch these marine animals, and even more so to behead them.
Others, however, argued that the shark head was that of a mako shark, which is legal to catch.
Additionally, although the caption of the Instagram photos mention Newport Beach, officials were originally in doubt.
Lt. Chris Stoots of California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said their investigation team determined the photo was not taken in the area, and that it was not clear whether it was taken in California at all.
Tara Finnigan, spokesperson for Newport Beach, said lifeguards confirmed that the photo of the shark head was not taken at the piers. In fact, she said the piers in Newport Beach are concrete while the deck in the photograph appears to be made of wood.
However, investigations will continue. CDFW spokesperson Carry Wilson says they are trying to determine whether the report is a citable offense or not.
"At this point, we want to confirm if it was a white shark," said Wilson, adding that the mako and great white shark look very similar.
Marine biologist Chris Lowe from Cal State Long Beach said he positively identified the carcass of the shark and then notified the CDFW, but there has yet to be any official confirmation from the department.
Meanwhile, the investigations team has also been in contact with a fisherman in Costa Mesa, whose name will not be disclosed due to ongoing probe.
Researchers took samples from the docks on Lido Peninsula as well as animal fillets from the fisherman, which will be processed in a lab using DNA analysis.
If the carcass is that of a great white shark, the maximum fine would be $1,000 and half a year in jail. If it is a mako, there is no violation.
According to Wilson, the fisherman has said that as far as he knew, he was taking a mako shark. The team would just want to confirm the allegation, and let the fisherman know what they were taking.
A photo posted by Drew (@savage.xdrew) on May 8, 2016 at 8:56am PDT