Do Photos Show People With a Dead Tiger Shark in Florida’s Chassahowitzka River?

The harvesting of tiger sharks is prohibited under Florida law.

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Claim

Widely circulated social media posts showed people taking photographs with a dead tiger shark on the Chassahowitzka River in Florida.

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Context

In an email to Snopes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that a tiger shark had been caught at a currently unidentified location and was brought to the Chassahowitzka River in Florida. Two individuals are facing charges for illegally possessing a protected species.

Origin

In early May 2021, photographs that reportedly showed a man holding what appeared to be a tiger shark along the bank of Florida’s Chassahowitzka River sparked criticism on social media and launched an investigation by wildlife officials. The pictures were widely reported by both Florida and national media outlets, as well as shared within several groups on Facebook.

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The Chassahowitzka River is located along the Gulf of Mexico in central Florida. Though some species of shark have been known to swim into brackish waters like estuaries and river mouths, it is uncommon for a saltwater shark to survive in the freshwater of rivers. Marine conservation organization Oceana noted in a blog post that freshwater rivers and lakes are “generally out of the question for species such as great white sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerhead sharks.”

At the time of writing, it is not yet known where the tiger shark was initially captured or how it wound up in the Chassahowitzka River. Snopes attempted to contact the photographers but did not hear back at the time of publication. In an email to Snopes, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) confirmed that the tiger shark had been caught in state waters in the Gulf of Mexico and was brought to the Chassahowitzka River.

“The FWC is aware of the incident that took place over the weekend on the Chassahowitzka River involving a tiger shark. The FWC takes this very seriously and is grateful to everyone who reported this incident. Tiger sharks are prohibited from harvest in state waters,” wrote FWC Public Information Coordinator Karen Parker.

“FWC law enforcement officers have investigated this incident and have issued a Notice to Appear to two individuals for taking a prohibited species of shark. The two subjects currently have a Citrus County court date.”

Both individuals face a charge under 68B-44.004(3)(b), a ruling under the Florida Department of State that prohibits individuals from harvesting or possessing prohibited species from Florida waters. So named for the tiger-liked vertical markings along their sides, tiger sharks are considered as “Near Threatened” by The World Conservation Union and are protected from commercial and recreational harvest in Florida state waters.

Neither person has been identified by law enforcement officials, but we will update the article as more information becomes available.