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Diving, Indian Ocean, Shark

Cocaine Sharks on the Florida Coast❗️🦈

At first glance, it sounds like a title for a new movie, but there are actually studies looking into whether sharks around Florida use cocaine.

Published by
Tobi·12/14/2023
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A strange story seems to be unfolding in the waters off Florida's coast - or that's what scientists suspect, as they wonder whether sharks might be stumbling across cocaine there.

Here's some background: the area is known as a hub for drug trafficking by smugglers, so when the Coast Guard shows up, the cocaine often ends up in the water. The packages are also often dropped off the coast by small aircraft and then collected by boat, but sometimes they are not. Sometimes, part of the contraband is lost in the process, and found on the coast or by fishermen at sea, for example. This has led to why the sea off Florida is considered to be the most cocaine-laden body of water in the world.

Marine biologist Tom Hird is therefore investigating whether the drugs also impact sharks. After all, the region is one of the hotspots for sharks, with tiger, bull, hammerheads, and great white sharks, among others, found here.

This much in advance: he could not gather any concrete evidence, but rather a series of clues.

  • Geographical location is key: The waters off Florida's coast are one of the main smuggling routes for drugs into the USA.

  • Water solubility of cocaine: Cocaine is water soluble, which means that sharks near damaged packages could theoretically come into contact with the drug.

  • Field observations off the Florida Keys: The research team has observed sharks off the Florida Keys, recording several instances of unusual behavior, such as a shaky swimming hammerhead shark and a sandbar shark that appeared to be fixated on and circling an unseen object.

  • Experimental tests: The research team threw dummy cocaine packets into the water, as well as artificial swans to see which objects were preferred. Surprisingly, many sharks ignored the swans and swam directly towards the packets. Some of them bit into them.

  • Simulation of drug drops: The team simulated a scenario with fake coke packets dropped from airplanes into the water. Several sharks swam in to investigate the impact.

⚠️ However, not all shark researchers accept these assumptions. Some, like Gavin Naylor, believe that sharks would treat the cocaine packages more like driftwood or inedible garbage. To confirm the initial hypothesis, the researchers emphasize the need for in-depth studies that would involve catching sharks, taking blood samples, and testing for traces of cocaine. Nevertheless, Hird hopes that his work will help to raise awareness of the effects of drugs on marine life.

🔍 If you want to find out more about the topic, we recommend the Discovery Channel's article "Cocaine Sharks", which deals with Tom Hird's investigations.

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