Fisherman Mathew Orlov, 46, knew the creature he’d hooked off the Australian coast was being attacked by more than just his hook. When he reeled the sevengill shark out of the water, she was already dead.
“I could feel through the line when she was being attacked,” Orlov explained. “As soon as we pulled it up, I knew (it had been) mauled by another shark.”
As Orlov and his fishing comrade inspected the 8-foot-8-inch female shark, they noticed movement in her belly. This shark was pregnant, and the men were going to have to act fast if her pups were to survive.
“When I saw the belly moving, instinct kicked in,” said Orlov, who was fishing off the coast of Barwon Heads in Victoria, Australia. “I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’ve been fishing long enough to know we needed to get the pups out as quickly as possible.”
Orlov began slicing at the shark’s stomach, performing a spur-of-the-moment C-section in an attempt to save the pups. Video footage shows Orlov cutting into the shark and releasing the live pups into the sea.
Orlov claims the female shark was carrying 98 pups; sevengill sharks typically have litters between 80 and 95 pups.
You can watch the footage here, but be warned: Some viewers will find this video content disturbing.
The fishermen spent nine minutes releasing tiny sharks into the sea.
“It was a very overwhelming feeling when they started popping out, I got this adrenaline rush,” Orlov recalled. “I was just dumbfounded there was so many, we counted 98.”
Whether or not the pups will survive and thrive will remain a mystery, but Orlov knew he had to give them a chance.
“I love the ocean and respect they’re an important part of the ecosystem,” the fisherman stated.
Orlov is optimistic at least some of the pups will survive.
“I think the pups chance of survival are high — they swam off quite healthily,” he said.
As for the female shark, Orlov harvested the meat to feed his family. He does not fish for sport; he fishes for food.
“As a fisherman, I catch fish to eat,” Orlov explained. “The meat from this shark fed lots of my family members.”
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