A Florida freediving guide has captured images showing a bull shark so massive and “abnormally round” that it dwarfed other sharks and divers brave enough to swim in its company.
Capt. John Moore, whose close encounter occurred earlier this spring off Jupiter, Fla., told For The Win Outdoors that the shark featured in many of the accompanying images was likely pregnant and perhaps close to giving birth.
“With sharks you can never really be sure, but it certainly seems that way,” he said. “This is the correct timing for pregnant females to be having their pups.”
Moore, 55, also a photographer and conservationist, has posted several of his images on Instagram.
In an interview he acknowledged what some have claimed after seeing media reports: The shark in the image atop this post looks bigger than its actual size because of the angle at which it was photographed.
But Moore assured that it was still enormous.
“The shark is big, but perspective shots make it look bigger,” he said. “But most of our bulls are about 250 pounds and she was closer to 600 pounds.”
For the sake of comparison, the rod-and-reel world record catch – a record established in 2001 – stands at just under 700 pounds. Bull sharks can grow much larger, but those specimens are becoming scarce because of overfishing.
Freediving with bull sharks (no scuba gear), to some, might be considered foolish.
The apex predators, which occur in tropical and subtropical waters, have been implicated in at least 100 attacks on humans, according to the International Shark Attack File. More than two dozen attacks resulted in fatalities.
They’re considered by many to be the most dangerous sharks in the world.
This is partly because bull sharks are so widespread and typically found close to the coast – even in freshwater. Bull sharks (and attacks) have been documented in murky rivers hundreds of miles from saltwater.
Moore, however, said that in clear water bull sharks are often hesitant, in most cases, to approach divers.
“Bull sharks get a bad rap and they are, in my opinion, one of the easiest sharks to freedive with here in Florida,” Moore said. “They are big, but very cautious and much less trusting than most of our sharks. It’s safe to say that they are one of the most misunderstood sharks.”
The freediver continued: “The majority of stories you hear about are mistakes made by the shark in poor visibility where they mistake a flash of skin for a fish. In clear water they are honestly very gentle and respectful.”
The pregnant shark, however, was not shy in the presence of Moore and his companion.
“This big female rolled up with the confidence and swagger of a true apex predator,” Moore recalled. “There’s normally an adjustment period where they size up how much of a threat they think you are. There were no such formalities with her.
“She felt comfortable around us very quickly and boldly paraded around me and my dive partner Logan. It’s a big accomplishment to grow to maturity for a shark these days and seeing one this large gives me hope.”
–Images courtesy of John Moore