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The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper

Deep Dive, the Shark Wars. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 30, 2024 - 20:00   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: For great white sharks you do not want to be outside of a cage with one of those animals because, you know, if they sneeze, something really bad can happen. Fortunately here we were under the watchful eye of some of the most experienced shark folks in the world. So we were fortunate to do it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Boris Sanchez, can't wait to watch it. Thanks so much for coming on to promo it for us.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: The all-new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER" air next, right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Have a wonderful Sunday night and upcoming week.


Sharks have been around for at least 400 million years, even before dinosaurs walked the earth. These apex predators have reputation for attacking all sorts of marine life, which sometimes includes the occasional human.

But are sharks a danger to people or are people a danger to sharks? According to scientists, more than one-third of shark species are at risk of extinction, mostly due to overfishing. Some fishermen in the U.S. argue that sharks are coming out in greater numbers than ever stealing their catch and making it harder for them to earn a living.

CNN's Boris Sanchez is an experienced diver, and over the next hour he takes us under water with sharks to show us both the beauty and danger of these creatures.

We want to warn you some of the images you'll see in this hour may be disturbing.


BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Below the surface at Tiger Beach, you're supposed to steady your breath, limit your movement, and keep your head on a swivel. There are shadows lurking, ancient predators with remorseless eyes, and staggered rows of razor-sharp teeth, circling closer. Jagged silhouettes that hold a lethal reputation. A beast that inspires dread and awe.

KARYL BREWSTER-GEISZ, NOAA FISHERIES RULEMAKING BRANCH CHIEF: They are such fascinating, iconic creatures.

DR. BORIS WORM, MARINE BIOLOGIST: It's like a cross between a dinosaur, a tiger, and a puppy dog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They eat everything. They're eating machines. Yes, they're dangerous. If you go into the water, you got a good chance of getting bit.

CRISTINA ZENATO, PROFESSIONAL DIVER, SHARK JUNCTION: How about the word vulnerable? How many people would also say the word shark with vulnerable?

SANCHEZ: Sharks are now at the center of a deepening conflict.

ROBERT "FLY" NAVARRO, RECREATIONAL FISHERMAN: There's just a lot more sharks out there. So there's a lot more interactions. My question is, is this the new normal?

SANCHEZ: Between those competing with apex predators, anglers struggling to make a living off the ocean.

BOB ZALES II, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SOUTHEASTERN FISHERIES ASSOCIATION: You go out there and about half of your catch is eaten by sharks.

SANCHEZ: And those who know these creatures by name and personality.

ZENATO: I can say Grandma was comfortable with me. I can say Grandma allow me to have her in my lap and pat her literally.

SANCHEZ: Advocates who say a negative reputation is unwarranted are worried that current global trends signal a bleak future.

JILLIAN MORRIS, SHARK CONSERVATIONIST: They're not these mindless eating machines. There's so much to learn about them, and they're so misunderstood.

WORM: The movie "Jaws" famously portrayed sharks as a huge threat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to need a bigger boat.

WORM: It was so successful that it caused a whole genre of movies to be produced. That's how they perpetuated that message.

ALEX CARRIER, SHARK EXPERT: People think of shark and they think of violent stuff, gore, blood, teeth.

WORM: And nothing could be further from the truth.

DR. NEIL HAMMERSCHLAG, MARINE ECOLOGIST: They aren't mindless killers, but in fact these amazing, curious, and just graceful animals.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Three victims injured in separate shark attacks.

SANCHEZ: While shark attacks do happen, experts say they're rare.

WORM: Sharks can be a risk to human beings. But we have less than 10 fatalities a year worldwide.

We're here in Herring Cove, Nova Scotia. We are tracking some of the white sharks in the region.

SANCHEZ: Boris Worm is a marine biologist in Nova Scotia, studying shark populations.

What got you interested in sharks?

WORM: Well, about 20 years ago we realized that sharks were on their way out, that their populations were declining in many regions and that really shook me. Our research has shown that about 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world. More than one-third of shark species are threatened by extinction right now like the great hammerheads, thresher sharks, oceanic white tip.


We need sharks because they have been a functional part of ocean ecosystems for at least 400 million years. That's twice as long as dinosaurs. They actually survived five major mass extinction event in earth history. And they have their sixth extension right now and it's driven by us.

HAMMERSCHLAG: Sharks are older than trees. Sharks as a group are older than the rings around Saturn.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Marine ecologist Neil Hammerschlag operates shark expeditions in the North Atlantic.

HAMMERSCHLAG: We know that predators in general help maintain balance and regulate ecosystems. When they are removed, there can be this trickling effect throughout the ecosystem. If I have a fancy watch, right, and I open it up and I pull out a random spring, I'm not exactly sure what's going to happen, but probably the watch is not going to function as well.

A lot of people like to think about shark's role in the ecosystem, they're eating all these fish and helping control populations that way. Well, they certainly have to eat. But one of the big ways that sharks have helped balance the ecosystem is by scaring fish. And that's important because it prevents any one species from like taking over and out-competing the other ones which promotes diversity.

WORM: Sharks often they live young like us. They mature late like us. They have few offspring throughout their life like humans. Human couldn't be fished sustainably over time. Sharks can't either.

SANCHEZ: What do humans use sharks for?

WORM: Shark meat for a long time was not prized at all. Sharks were often caught accidentally. Then in the 1990s, with increasing affluence in Asia, particularly in China and neighboring countries, shark fins became a highly priced delicacy.

HAMMERSCHLAG: It was seen as a cultural sign of wealth having shark fin soup. Certain fins are more valuable. They could go from $50 to $500 a pound. And what would happen is the sharks would be brought towards the boat. It's something called finning. The fins would be cut off, and the rest of the shark would be thrown away at sea to die. Essentially, these sharks suffocate to death. Mutilated sharks caused an outcry.

WORM: And that contributed very much to the heightened extinction risk we now see for sharks. Since then that practice of cutting off the shark fins and selling them for profit has been banned in many countries. Now fishers are incentivized to land the whole shark.

HAMMERSCHLAG: What has happened is that it seems to have created a bit of a demand for shark meat.

WORM: And also a very rapidly increasing trade in shark liver oil. A very valuable oil called squalene, which is used, for example, in supplements or in cosmetics.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Despite an increased global demand for shark meat, the FDA warns that it could contain high levels of mercury.

HAMMERSCHLAG: Shark meat is not good for your health. So my own studies have found that sharks' tissues have very high levels of toxins like mercury, arsenic, and even in neurological toxins linked to development of Alzheimer's disease in humans.

SANCHEZ: You did research about shark finning regulations and whether that helped to reduce mortality. What did you find?

WORM: We were really interested in finding out whether the rise of shark finning regulations around the world has helped to reduce mortality of sharks. And the short answer is no. It did not because it simply incentivized fishers to land the whole shark, use the whole shark, creating additional markets for their products. In some sense raising the value of the shark.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Worm's research also looks at the countries where the most sharks are killed. While Indonesia regulates shark fishing it tops the list with illegal shark exports.

WORM: You see the big six, six countries make up 50 percent of global shark mortality. As you see, the United States at number eight, with an estimated 2.8 million sharks killed according to our data. It's a major shark fishing nations, but they're also doing things for sustainability but I think most people would be surprised to learn that there's so many sharks being fished in the states.

SANCHEZ: How serious is the overfishing of sharks as a problem around the world?

HAMMERSCHLAG: The loss of sharks from directed fishing from sharks and also sharks being caught unintentionally is a major, a major problem. This is like a global phenomenon.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Despite warnings that sharks are in danger globally, some anglers say the shark population in the United States is out of control.

NAVARRO: Shark just standing. Shark just standing right there.


SANCHEZ: And a recreational fisherman says the humanizing of sharks has gone too far.

NAVARRO: I could show you pages and pages of Instagram accounts on personal sharks that people are feeding off the coast of Florida. They have names.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Snooty, a female lemon shark.

NAVARRO: I do not see kids going to farms and naming chickens and naming cows.

SANCHEZ: Next, we traveled to the Bahamas to meet those naming sharks and we get up close to some of the creatures they're trying to save.

Do you think the shark knows you're trying to help it?

ZENATO: Yes, I do. Otherwise why would she keep coming back when it hurts? Because trying to remove a hook hurts, but she'll do a tight circle and come back in.


SANCHEZ (voice-over): For those who cherish shark interactions, few places on earth rival the Bahamas.

ZENATO: Sharks are living, breathing, thinking, feeling, sentient beings, which are necessary in our world.

SANCHEZ: And at Shark Junction, a dive site just offshore from Grand Bahamas Island, Cristina Zenato feels at home.

What is it like when you are under the water with sharks?

ZENATO: To me it's like being home. It's as peaceful as sitting on my couch, petting my dogs. I'm happy. I'm relaxed. I enjoy their presence. So for me it's an animal that is easy to understand. It's not conniving. It is not backstabbing. I deal easier with sharks sometimes than I deal with people.

SANCHEZ: You've never felt fear in the water with sharks.

ZENATO: I never felt fear. No. I grew up with the notion, it's a very beautiful sentence that my dad always told me. There are no monsters in the sea, only the ones you make up in your head.

SANCHEZ: You were instrumental in changing the way that sharks are treated here in the Bahamas.

ZENATO: I started a petition in 2009 that gathered at the time 25,000 signatures online.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A petition that helped establish a marine sanctuary for sharks across the Bahamas' 700 islands.

ZENATO: You cannot fish, you cannot kill, you cannot even land a dead shark.

SANCHEZ: Over decades of dives, Zenato has seen generations of Caribbean reef sharks come and go, learning their patterns and fostering relationships.


ZENATO: We actually recognize each and every one of them. I have hand signals with their names and I can point them out to you and they have personalities as well.

SANCHEZ: Personalities we'll greet once we sued up.

ZENATO: All right. So change suit and we're going to use this one here. Then slide it over your hips. Kind of like a knight in shining armor. And they're designed to prevent abrasions and cuts. Legs start forward, ready, go. Look out. So as we go down we reached the bottom of the land it's 30 feet, and then we'll move right in the middle of the sand.

SANCHEZ: And as we settle into position, Zenato spots familiar faces.

ZENATO: But we have hook. We have Half-Baked. We have Vulkan. We have Crook. We have Floppy. Reach out and pet the shark head. Same as if you would be shaking somebody's hand. Relax, right? Gentle breathing. Don't trying to do too much. A way for the shark to come in. You're going to reach out and pet.

I had a shark I call Grandma. I've known it for 14 years. And now she's just gone. Grandma accepted me. I can say Grandma was comfortable with me. I can say Grandma allowed me to have her in my lap and pet her literally. And it's every time the same feeling. It's a magical moment for, you know, eight and a half, nine for wild animal to say in this moment, I trust you and I will sit here with you.

So I always worry, what if they go into the Florida waters when they're not protected? What if somebody comes here a night and nobody is watching and does something to them? So it's a mix of laugh and worry when I'm with them.

SANCHEZ: Zenato also aims to heal those wounded by fishing hooks.

ZENATO: So when a shark shows up with a hook, I tried to see where the hook is lodged. If the shark is willing but maybe stop the shark tried to grab the hook.

SANCHEZ: Do you think the shark knows you're trying to help it? ZENATO: Yes, I do. Otherwise why we should keep coming back when it

hurts? Because trying to remove a hook hurts but she'll do a tight circle and come back in.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): In 30 years of removing more than 350 hooks Zenato says she's never been bitten by a shark.

ZENATO: They can be sometimes demanding, but the satisfaction of being able to relieve a shark of that presence is enormous.

SANCHEZ: Oh, man, that was incredible. That was unreal.

ZENATO: It was really good. Very nice.

SANCHEZ: Tomorrow we're headed to Tiger Beach to do some free diving. Do you have any advice?

ZENATO: Wear two eyes on the back of your head.

SANCHEZ: Is that the Cayman Jason?


SANCHEZ: What's going on?

WASHINGTON: Welcome aboard, my friend.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): More than two hours off the coast of Grand Bahama, Tiger Beach is world renowned for its strike namesake. Unlike reef sharks, we will not be petting tiger sharks. Among the largest of the species they can weigh nearly a ton and they grow up to 18 feet in length. They're perfect models for conservation as Jason Washington, an award-winning photographer, acclaimed for his work with free divers.

SANCHEZ: Why free dive Tiger Beach?

WASHINGTON: It gives us an opportunity to get a little bit closer to the animals. But the shark is going to be moving all around us while we're down there. So it'll give us an opportunity to swim alongside with these creatures.

SANCHEZ: What does your ability to photograph them and shine a different light on them mean for conservation?

WASHINGTON: When you want to turn the world on to the plight of these animals, you want to get in the water with the big ones and show the viewing audience that they're not mindless killers. You know, they play a critical role in our world's oceans and they deserve our protection. And I do that specifically through photography.

STEPHON FORBES, SHARK FEEDER: First thing I do, we are prepping our bait. We have one bait box we actually hang off the front of the boat. Mostly keeping some of the reef sharks, lemon sharks up in the front of the boat. WASHINGTON: When you want to experience something like this, you need

to seek out a professional crew. We happen to be diving with some of the best in the industry today.


FORBES: Out here we have two rules. Basically do not touch the shark. Don't let the shark touch you, all right? You see me going four, five, six, that number indicates how many tiger sharks are in the area. These tiger sharks are nice, beautiful, majestic creatures. But let's not give the tiger shark the opportunity to get too close to us. We have our second bait box down there. That's going to be the main bait box we are feeding from.

SANCHEZ: So you saw a familiar face down there?

FORBES: Yes. It's tiger shark. They've been frequent in Tiger Beach for about five or six years. She's quite famous actually. Her name is Butt Face which means (INAUDIBLE) her face is indented. She's actually one of the most sneaky sharks. Most tiger sharks come around. They come nice and low and stay at the bait box. She basically does what she wants to do.

SANCHEZ: Butt Face plays by her own rules.

FORBES: Pretty much. Pretty much.

WASHINGTON: As free divers, what we want to do is get our heart rate low. We want to get our CO2 levels low. And we get our oxygen levels high. So we do that for our breather process. All right. Ready for this?

SANCHEZ: Let's do it.

WASHINGTON: What we're looking for immediately as we enter the water are these lemons and these reef sharks that are circling behind the boat. And we're going to make our way back down toward the end of this tagline. And that's where we'll be free-diving from.

Now these sharks on the bottom are going to be coming into the bait station. They're going to make a big circle and they're going to come into the bait station to get their hand out of food, their treat. And then when we feel like we're in a safe position we're going to dive down and swim with these animals. So I'm going to be taking pictures of you with the tiger sharks in the background.

Make sure you're looking all around above, below, all the sides. Because these sharks can come from different angles.

SANCHEZ: The amount of energy that is spent getting down there, getting close to the shark, keeping up with it, and also keeping your head on a swivel because there were several moments where you're focused on one and a couple of them are behind you or in your peripheral. So it requires a lot of energy to not only be close to the shark and moving with it, but also to be alert. WASHINGTON: It's almost the same every time for me. It's that slipping

beneath the water, the world suddenly becomes more silent. All the things in my mind are pushed to the periphery and I'm focused 1,000 percent on these sharks. It is the most present that I will ever be.

SANCHEZ: Watching the feeder is almost like watching a bullfighter. The way that they sort of navigate the space and they navigate the animal's intent and interest because they are very interested in what's happening in that bait box and sort of keeping it at bay and managing it and dancing with it in that moment from an up-close view, there is nothing like that in the world.

So we've got a chance to swim with them, right? Now we're going to throw on some scuba gear and get face-to-face. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear, go.

SANCHEZ: Getting that close to a tiger shark and making eye contact with this miracle of Mother Nature, this massive dinosaur, knowing that it is fully capable of ending your existence and then watching as it examines you, sizes you up, and then shares the ocean with you and moves to the side. That to me is profound. It's just awe-inspiring. They come fairly close to you, you could just reach out and touch them. They don't really even care that you're there.

I think Butt Face has a bad reputation because she was nothing but pleasant to me personally.

WASHINGTON: I'm literally capturing everything that's happening around me. I'm framing the image and then try to line everything up in a composition that's pleasing to my brain. It's a difficult process and it's one of those things that just keeps you coming back for more. And the more you do it, the more addictive it becomes because that's suddenly where you understand that this world is a lot bigger.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): When we return controversy over shark fishing tournaments.

CARRIER: It was just gruesome.

SANCHEZ: And allegations of animal cruelty when frustrations boil over.

CARRIER: Just violent, angry, upset, mob mentality.


SANCHEZ: And later --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reel, reel, reel, reel, reel.

SANCHEZ: We meet a world-famous shark hunter.

So what's the procedure now? What's the protocol with a great hammerhead?




SANCHEZ (voice-over): Jupiter, Florida, July 2022. A shark fishing tournament drawing national attention and outrage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Local anglers are hosting a shark hunting competition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To reduce the number of bull sharks in these waters, the event bringing up protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Online petition to stop that event and more than 140,000 signatures.

SANCHEZ: The controversial event giving away cash prizes for those who catch the biggest sharks. Fishermen exasperated by costly shark interactions posting to social media that they plan to kill as many as possible. Threatening to butcher them with propellers. And hinting about hiding carcasses.

CARRIER: Just violent, angry, upset, mob mentality. They came in here. They culled a bunch of bull sharks and the results were immediately felt and seen.

SANCHEZ: Local dive boat captain Alex Carrier brought claims of animal cruelty to light.

There were reports during the tournament of people beheading sharks, of people finning sharks, of people unloading firearms into sharks. How did that make you feel?

CARRIER: There was a lot of things that were being done illegally. A lot of kill methods that were not allowed being used. There was a lot of disrespect to those sharks once they were caught. Using the sharks as a punching bag. There was a lot of insight video captured from that tournament. It was just gruesome.

SANCHEZ: What was the ripple effect after the tournament?

CARRIER: When you kill a certain number of sharks like that, it pushes all the other sharks out and a lot of fishermen kept killing sharks after the tournament. So there's a whole saying, do your part, kill a shark.

I made a video that went viral on the tournament. Quickly after I posted that video, I had a couple of people show up at my house wanting to get violent. It was a pretty scary time because I was getting, you know, death threats.

NAVARRO: There's a lot of fishermen out there right now that are very frustrated with sharks. So they have a negative connotation because they keep interacting in a bad way with the fisher.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): The tournament's organizer, Robert "Fly" Navarro, says he also became a target.

NAVARRO: I was averaging between two to three death threats a night.

SANCHEZ: What were people saying?

NAVARRO: I'm going to shoot you just like people shoot sharks.

SANCHEZ: You've heard the reports I'm sure of people misbehaving.

NAVARRO: I heard reports of people misbehaving. I never saw anybody misbehaving.

SANCHEZ: Folks doing inhumane things to the sharks.

NAVARRO: That wasn't the intended purpose. We had a university that was doing samples on all the sharks. I know we harvested nine sharks and we released somewhere like 287 sharks. All I know is we had a 97 percent release rate, which all that stuff went back to NOAA.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But the number of sharks released was thrown into question when hidden camera video that was shot for a documentary circulated on social media. It captures audio of a tournament official instructing fishermen to take the fins and take the meat before dumping dead bodies in the ocean. Navarro, who was at the meeting, later admits more sharks could have been killed than those they harvested.

Inside video also captures a fisherman bragging about dragging a shark behind a boat for hours. A state crime in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These things are not made to die. We drug this fish for two hours.

SANCHEZ: Is it possible that there were folks that did things that you wouldn't sanction?

NAVARRO: 100 percent. I cannot -- I don't know what everybody is doing out there.

SANCHEZ: You're opposed to shark culls.

NAVARRO: 100 percent. I don't want sharks culled.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: We do not sponsor any tournaments. We'd only require that people holding the tournament, register with us and that is so we can collect the data.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Karyl Brewster-Geisz helps write the rules for NOAA Fisheries, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Do you think that having these tournaments gives cover to folks who might do things that are inappropriate?

BREWSTER-GEISZ: There are going to be some people who try to skirt the rules. If you question whether or not they are fishing correctly, reach out to NOAA law enforcement.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Backlash from this and other tournaments over the years has forced some to shut down, though Navarro is now planning another that he says will also be within the rules.

A few miles south, one Florida fisherman who no longer participates in tournaments, has become famous for his prolific shark hunting.


How long have you been marked for shark?

QUARTIANO: Oh, since early '70s. When "Jaws" came out, the movie, I was sharp fishing then, but it then -- it's made my business skyrocket, you know, because people wanted to catch a shark.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Customers hire him to take them shark fishing.

How many sharks do you think you've caught over the years?

QUARTIANO: About 100,000 sharks. Yes. 50 years don't forget. It's a long time.

I mean, if you're out here every day like we are, we're out here 450 times a year, we see what's going on. There's a lot of fish that are on. We protect a list that should be off the protected list. Sandbar. We're going to measure her up, tag her and let her go. There's plenty of sandbar sharks around. I mean, you could catch them just about every day of the week.

But why are they on their protected list? I don't know. They shouldn't be. They should be taken off.

Come on, I get a picture quick. OK. Open that door. And let her go.

We tag probably a couple of hundred sharks a year for NOAA, National Marine Fisheries. They love us all.

Hurry up, you need to hurry up. Just keep it tight, keep it going, keep it going. Keep it going. A little bit of time. There you go. That's a bigger fish you got there.

SANCHEZ: So what's the procedure now? What's the protocol with the great hammerhead?

QUARTIANO: We're going to kill it.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Hammerheads are protected in Florida waters but legal to catch in federal waters three miles offshore.

QUARTIANO: Ten feet at least.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're tight. Here she comes, coach.

QUARTIANO: A lot of blood. Yes. Get him on, get him on, get him on. Get him on. Big male. Wow, bro. They gone bleeding, he's bleeding all over the place.

SANCHEZ: But there's no part of you that feels bad about that shark having a diminished population? And you taking one out of the water?

QUARTIANO: In my opinion, there's no diminishing of a population of hammerheads. They're everywhere. We catch it all the time. If they're so endangered, why did we catch him every day? Just think about that. Honestly.

SANCHEZ: What would you say to folks who think that you're doing harm to shark populations?

QUARTIANO: One guy doing shark populations harm? I don't know. How does that work? I mean, I'm getting way too much credit.

Hang this neuter.

SANCHEZ: How many times have you gone out fishing with Mark?

DOMINIC CARINI, CUSTOMER: Thirty, 30 plus. Maybe 40 times.

SANCHEZ: What is it about sharks that attracts you to this kind of fishing?

CARINI: I find it similar probably to like anybody that, you know, wants a big game. As long as it's positive, legal, in the right waters I think big game hunting, a lot of people all over America enjoy it.

SANCHEZ: Should we stop for a moment, just look over there.

(Voice-over): Soon after docking law enforcement approaches the boat.

CARINI: They're so mean to Mark. Can I put that on film? Everyone is so mean to Mark. Mark is a good person.

QUARTIANO: Someone always calls the police on us. The police officer know that we don't do anything illegal. We're totally 100 percent by the book.

CARINI: Right here. Look at me, guys.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Despite warnings from the FDA that shark meat could have high levels of mercury, meat from this scalloped hammerhead will soon be delivered to a local homeless shelter, which Mark says he does with every catch.

QUARTIANO: Good job, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Coming up, we head to West Palm Beach to explore anglers' frustration and see why they say the U.S. government is leaving them high and dry.

NAVARRO: Guess what, you just got sharked.


NAVARRO: You didn't know you were doing a workout today, did you?

SANCHEZ: No. No idea.

NAVARRO: And we got a rainbow runner.

SANCHEZ: How long have you been doing this?

NAVARRO: Professionally, I've been doing it 33 years.

Good luck, buddy.

It's become a little bit of an issue, number one, with a lot of boats. Number two, the shark problem.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Robert "Fly" Navarro says that competing against predators on the open water is natural. But the rate at which sharks are feasting on his catch is crippling both the commercial and recreational fishing industry.

NAVARRO: It's every fish you're fighting.

SANCHEZ: Navarro says sharks are eating what he catches before he can reel it into the boat at an alarming rate. He says the phenomenon known as depredation is happening more often than he's ever seen.

NAVARRO: Lean back. And then wind out, there you go. Somebody is having dinner tonight. Keep winding, keep winding. He's still there. Or did he get bit off? Guess what, you just got sharked.

SANCHEZ: You think so?

NAVARRO: Look at the litter. It's gone. That's the shark. He just ate your dorado.


SANCHEZ: How do you know for sure that was a shark, though?

NAVARRO: Feel that. That's sharp teeth, grabbed the fish and pulls it. Now could you imagine if you spent $3,000 to go fishing to catch that fish for dinner and it just got eaten?

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Aiming to curb declining numbers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began implementing protections on sharks in the early 1990s.

Shark. Shark right there. Look it right there.

NAVARRO: OK. Yes. Here it comes.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Tighter regulations mean more sharks. And according to Navarro, more sharks mean more encounters.

NAVARRO: There's a shark that just ate it. He just ate it. See him? Right there he just ate your bait. Your fish.

SANCHEZ: That's three today that we've caught.

NAVARRO: Or that we've got up but the sharks are them right next to the boat.

SANCHEZ: It's a lot of work.

NAVARRO: It's a lot of work only to, what, lose it right at the end. It's tough.

SANCHEZ: You come home empty handed.

NAVARRO: You come home empty handed.

The question is, are they trying to rebuild the stocks back to 100 percent or they trying to rebuild them back to a manageable level? And that's a question that I asked the agency this week. Going forward --

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Navarro is a member of NOAA's advisory panel for highly migratory species like sharks.

NAVARRO: Right now depredation is a very big problem.

SANCHEZ: Other frustrated fishermen joined him in D.C. this May to voice their concerns.

ZALES: I've got videos on my phone that were sent to me from southeast Florida of sharks tearing the selfish up that they're trying to catch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is. And shark is standing, the shark just eating right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at the shark eating, damn it.

ZALES: Sharks are just frankly a nuance for pretty much anybody fishing anywhere from Maine through Texas.

SANCHEZ: Why is that?

ZALES: Because the abundance of them.

CATHERINE MACDONALD, SHARK CONSERVATIONIST: So we're going to check this every 10 lines.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But some scientists disagree. Catherine Macdonald, who runs the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the University of Miami --

MACDONALD: So we're going to take a look.

SANCHEZ: -- argues depredation may be due to overfishing.

MACDONALD: For the most part, fisheries independent monitoring data does not show a huge population increase. We may be depleting prey sources so that that increased competition has more to do with fewer fish to go around than it has to do with more sharks. There's a lot of scientists actually working on this topic right now. The question isn't, are those conflicts going to occur? Because we know that they are. It's how do we want to manage them and what do we want the future to look like.

SANCHEZ: So what was it that got you into marine life?

NOAA officials say the problem is complex without an easy remedy.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: We have been really successful in NOAA Fisheries at rebuilding some of these stocks. But there are a lot more recreational anglers now. That means there's a lot more fish being discarded or the fishermen are practicing catch and release. All of that is going to train sharks.

SANCHEZ: Is there any science-backed data that proves that depredation is a problem?

BREWSTER-GEISZ: One of the things NOAA Fisheries is trying to do right now is fund a lot of research looking into depredation. But the solution is not going to be cull all sharks. All sharks are bad and you get rid of them.

NAVARRO: Look at him go. Look, he's getting chased. The shark got him.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: Our solution is going to be something to minimize the interactions between sharks and the fishermen. And so first we have to collect the data.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Collecting that data involves serving populations or stock assessments, which fisherman like Fly thinks needs to happen as soon as possible.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: I would agree with him.

SANCHEZ: So then what's the challenge in getting it done? Because he feels like the federal government isn't listening to fishermen like him.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: We try very hard. There is a whole process. We work within NOAA. We work with other groups to determine which species, not just sharks, should be assessed when. It takes time to do the assessments.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): When we return scientists inspiring the next generation of researchers.

MACDONALD: It's to give them that firsthand experience, their own story that they will carry with them.

SANCHEZ: As the future for sharks appears murky.

If we keep killing 100 million sharks a year where would that leave us?


[20:53:43] MACDONALD: We are in Biscayne Bay just a couple of miles from downtown Miami, Florida.

MORRIS: And we are out fishing for sharks and hopes of catching and tagging them.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Scientists Catherine MacDonald and Jillian Morris are giving young girls a real-life lesson on apex predators.

MORRIS: Then you're going to push, push, push, and feel hard. Yes. Good job. Now spin it. Perfect. That's it.

SANCHEZ: Teaching them how to tag sharks for research.

MORRIS: When the horn blows, you're going to drop the fish in and then we're going to let that coil out, OK?

SANCHEZ: Morris founded the non-profit organization Sharks for Kids.

MORRIS: You need science for conservation, but you also need education. And so if kids grow up understanding how valuable sharks are for healthy oceans, they're going to do better than our generations have done in taking care of this incredible habitat.

SANCHEZ: She is partnering with Macdonald who runs the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the University of Miami.

MACDONALD: Monitoring shark populations is a really important part of understanding what's happening with them. If we want to have healthy, productive marine environments here in south Florida, the data is the thing that helps us ensure that for our future and for kids.

Whichever shark we have, the place that we want you to be is behind this pectoral fin, right?


Sharks have a bite end and a slappy end, and we don't want to get bit and we don't want to get slapped. We'll get you in position. We'll call you when we're ready. All right. We've got our measuring team first. Pull it away and read it.





MORRIS: Think about when you go to the doctor, right? And you get a physical or checkup, it's really the same kind of thing that they're doing.

SANCHEZ: And this is a clipping, a small clipping of the fin? MORRIS: Yes. So it's a small piece of a fin. Think of like clipping

your fingernails or cutting your hair. It's not hurting the animal out, feeling it, if you're doing that right, it shouldn't be feeling it. And it's giving us DNA. You can do a shark family tree, essentially.

SANCHEZ: So what's happening now?

MORRIS: So now we have a student who is hoisting a tag in.

SANCHEZ: And what is the tag keeping track of?

MORRIS: They're looking at how many sharks we're catching, which species, and then that tag number is linked to all the other data.

SANCHEZ: How does this help protect sharks?

MORRIS: So you have to have baseline data. You have to have an understanding when people make statements like populations are going up or down. Or you hear people say, oh, there's too many sharks. You don't know that unless you have data.

SANCHEZ: So you just tagged a shark. What was that like?

PAULA MORA, FOURTH GRADER: Like it felt pretty weird. It's was really cool.

SANCHEZ: Yes? You like sharks?

MORA: Yes.

SANCHEZ: What was going through your mind as you were looking at it?

MORA: I was like, oh, my god. I can't believe I just tagged a shark.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Collecting one key data point from the seven sharks they tagged is especially critical given that these waters are actually a nursery.

And this is a sonogram that's taking place right now.

MORRIS: This is really exciting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we have babies.


MACDONALD: So if a little shark can make it here, they can make it in other places where they need to co-exist with people. And that gives us a lot of hope for the future of shark conservation.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Hope that globally seems to be in short supply.

WORM: And the odds are stacked against the sharks. For every human that gets killed at least 10 million sharks get killed.

HAMMERSCHLAG: Well, now overfished. The scary part is they're being fished sometimes before they can even reproduce.

SANCHEZ: If we keep killing 100 million sharks a year, where would that leave us?

WORM: I'm not sure where it would leave us. Where it would leave sharks is with a lot of species going extinct. One in three shark species minimum right now is threatened to go extinct in the near future because of overfishing. Those species will never come back. They will never contribute to a healthy marine ecosystem again. I'm really worried that it would put ecosystems out of whack in a way we don't completely understand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He just took it out of my hand.

HAMMERSCHLAG: Shark depredation is an issue and I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed. But I don't think culling sharks is the way to address that. I think there needs to be more science behind what are the factors that might increase depredation rates? Because if we can understand what goes into that, then maybe we can modify the way we fish in a way that could reduce that.

WORM: We see sharks slowly recovering in some places that protect them. U.S. is one example. So we got good fishes management, some sharks are recovering. At the same time other species might not recover because we're still fishing them.

BREWSTER-GEISZ: We definitely have some shark species that are in need of conservation. We also have some species that are really healthy and that can withstand a lot more fishing pressure than we allow on them.

WORM: The good news is that overfishing is the main threat to sharks by far. And overfishing can be addressed by changing human behavior. We can regulate the numbers of sharks that are allowed to be landed. We can regulate the fishing gears that are to be used and we can have wider regulations on, say, which species are allowed to be traded over international boundaries.

SANCHEZ: How important is it to change the perception that people have of sharks?

WORM: Well, I think it starts with seeing sharks for what they are and not what were made to believe they are. And seeing them as a vital and critical part of ocean ecosystem, something we cannot afford to lose. We can reduce overfishing. We've done it in the past. We've done it for other species. We've saved whales. We're saving turtles. We can save sharks.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A challenge that will define the health of our oceans for generations.

MORRIS: We have taken hundreds of kids out in the field to tag sharks. It's to give them that firsthand experience, their own story that they will carry with them. It's not what they read in a book. It's not what they saw on TV. It's not what somebody told them. Like be afraid of sharks. It's they have their own connection and their own story, and that stays with them. They are wild animals, but they're not monsters and they're in big trouble.

And if we don't have these conversations and we don't support research and conservation, they're disappearing and they're going to keep disappearing. So the time is now to take action to save these animals.


COOPER: To learn more about these fascinating creatures, tune in to "Shark Week" on Discovery, which is also owned by CNN's parent company WBD. It starts July 7th.

Thanks for watching THE WHOLE STORY. I'll see you next Sunday.