By Nelson Groom
An astounded fisherman who hooked a dead shark performed an impromptu caesarean section on the predator when he realised it was pregnant.
Tradesman Mathew Orlov, 46, knew something was wrong when he reeled in the 2.7 metre [8ft 8in] sevengill shark in waters off the coast of Barwon Heads, Victoria, Australia, on Monday.
The experienced angler claims the shark was fatally attacked by another predator after he hooked it and it was already dead by the time he reeled it in.
But Mathew, from Geelong, said he saw the shark’s stomach was moving once he pulled it onto the boat so he cut it open in a desperate bid to save the babies.
Confronting footage shows the 46-year-old spending nine minutes releasing the 98 shark pups back into the wild – but experts have now said the babies sadly may not have survived.
Mathew, who cooked and ate the dead shark to feed his babies, said: “As soon as she was on the boat we saw the seven bite marks from another shark.
“I could feel threw the line when she was being attacked. As soon as we pulled it up I knew was mauled by another shark.
“When I saw the belly moving, instinct kicked in. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ve fishing long enough to know we needed to get the pups out as quickly as possible.
“It was a very overwhelming feeling when they started popping out, I got this adrenaline rush. I was just dumbfounded there was so many, we counted 98.”
Mathew said he had never performed a shark c-section before but knew what to do from hearing the tales of fellow fisherman.
He has since eaten the shark and did not feel any conflicting emotions as the animal’s body did not go to waste.
Mathew, who initially thought he had rescued 76 pups in total before discovering 12 more, said: “As a fisherman, I catch fish to eat. The meat from this shark fed lots of my family members.
“I love the ocean and respect they’re an important part of the ecosystem.
“I think the pups chance of survival are high – they swam off quite healthily.
“Some people online have said I should have just thrown it back, but they don’t understand how sharks work.”
Sevengill sharks generally give birth to 70 to 90 live pups after a pregnancy lasting approximately 12 months.
The babies’ chances of survival rests largely on how close their mother was to full term.
But shark expert Jane Williamson, associate professor at Macquarie University in Sydney, cast doubt over whether the premature pups would have survived on their own.
Jane said: “It is difficult to see what developmental stage the pups are at – I can’t tell if they are developed enough to cope alone.
“But I can see the pups don’t have a yolk sac, which is a good sign and indicates that they have a chance of survival.”
Barbara Wueringer, director at Sharks And Rays Australia, added: “Sharks and rays are known to sometimes abort upon capture, with the abortion likely induced by the stress of capture.
“So it is likely that this shark, if she had not been bitten by other sharks while hooked, might have aborted her embryos anyway.”
Visit Jane Williamson’s profile here: https://researchers.mq.edu.au/en/persons/jane-williamson