Investigators in Hawaii are working to determine how nearly 100 baby hammerhead sharks died after they were found dumped Tuesday morning near a lagoon outside Honolulu.
Andrew Rossiter, director of the Waikiki Aquarium, told Honolulu’s FOX 2 that he has never seen so many baby sharks killed at one time, and that the pups were probably caught in a gill net.
"To breathe they have to keep moving, so once they're in the net for even two to three minutes, they're unable to breathe and they suffocate," Rossiter said.
The sharks were found ashore along Keehi Lagoon, near the La Mariana Sailing Club, about 5 miles west of Honolulu, according to the station.
"I see sharks right from here and then I walked farther and I see all this fish, the sharks across this barricade,” Samuel Etrata, who works for the sailing club, told FOX 2. “It is very shocking."
Etrata said he called the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, which is now investigating. It was not immediately clear who had dumped the shark pups.
Keehi Lagoon is a known location for hammerhead pupping season this time of the year, officials said, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. But it is not a naturally occurring event for shark babies to be found ashore in large numbers.
Rossiter said there should be tougher laws to prevent the mass deaths of the sharks.
In fact, Hawaii state Sen. Mike Gabbard, a Democrat, has been pushing a bill in recent years that would make it illegal to catch sharks in gill nets.
"I'm sick to my stomach about what's happened today. It's really giving me the incentive to make sure that this bill gets passed in 2019.'
Last year, the bill passed unanimously in the state Senate, but did not move forward in the House, the station reported.
The bill called for anyone caught illegally catching sharks to be fined $500 per shark for the first offense, the report said.
"When it's the pupping season and it's a pupping area, then maybe they should restrict or ban the use of gill nets just for a couple of weeks to give them a chance," Rossiter said.
Several of the nine species of hammerhead sharks are either are endangered or vulnerable.