Sharks off the coast of Florida could be consuming cocaine dropped in the ocean by drug smugglers, US researchers have found. That’s as the US Coast Guard claims to have seized as much as 6,400 kilograms (14,109 pounds) of cocaine in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean over just the past month.
Sharks off the coast of Florida might be encountering an unusual substance in their habitat. US researchers working on the Discovery Channel’s upcoming TV series ‘Cocaine Sharks’ revealed that some sharks have been exhibiting strange behavior in the area. The researchers conducted experiments off the Florida Keys, an area where fishermen have reportedly encountered drug-addicted fish.
Marine biologist Tom Hird and University of Florida environmental scientist Tracy Fanara recounted their experiences during one dive when they saw a great hammerhead, a species known to avoid humans, charging straight at their team while swimming in an atypical manner. Another sandbar shark was observed continuously swimming in tight circles while seemingly fixated on something that didn’t exist.
To explore this phenomenon further, the scientists devised an experiment. They placed a dummy swan next to a package resembling a real cocaine bale that might have been dropped into the ocean by drug smugglers.
To their surprise, the sharks ignored the swans and went straight for the ‘cocaine bales,’ attempting to take bites from them. One shark even swam away with an entire bale.
Another intriguing test involved creating a bait ball from highly concentrated fish powder. When the sharks consumed the powder, researchers observed a behavior similar to a hit of cocaine, as the animals appeared to go wild.
Marine biologist Tom Hird commented on the results, stating, “I think we have got a potential scenario of what it may look like if you gave sharks cocaine. We gave them what I think is the next best thing. [It] set [their] brains aflame. It was crazy.”
In an effort to mimic a real-life drug drop, the team also dropped fake cocaine bales from an airplane. Multiple shark species instantly swarmed around the packages.
While the researchers are yet to prove that sharks are actually consuming cocaine, they expressed hope that the airing of the documentary series could lead to further research on this fascinating issue and its potential implications. Additionally, they are keen to explore how other pharmaceuticals might affect marine life.
The study sheds light on the intriguing behavior of Florida’s sharks and raises questions about the impact of illicit drugs on marine ecosystems. As the ‘Cocaine Sharks’ series premieres, audiences can expect to witness a captivating exploration of this extraordinary phenomenon.
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