It happens every time there’s a hurricane – the shark photos, memes, and old videos showing “proof” that a shark (usually looking like a great white) is taking advantage of flooded streets and malls to search for… well, who knows what. For years, journalists and shark scientists alike have had to put up with a deluge of fake images and videos, telling the public the same message: “this is fake.” Yes, even the Twitter page for Snopes has pleaded with people to stop sharing the proven fake photos and videos. So it was no one’s surprise when a video surfaced after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida claiming to capture a shark in the flood waters.
This video, however, was different.
Previous prank videos have usually shown sharks in flooded malls or swimming on freeways, but this one appeared to be in someone’s backyard near Fort Myers, Florida. The fact that this was a new video garnered a lot of attention, garnering millions of views on Twitter. Skepticism was rampant – and justified. The first question many asked was, “Is this a real video?” An answer came quickly with both Record and the Associated Press confirming its authenticity through examination of video metadata and subsequent interviews. The AP got the scoop from local real estate agent Dominic Cameratta, who confirmed he shot the video himself Wednesday morning. “I didn’t know what it was, it just looked like a fish or something,” he told news outlets. “I zoomed in and all my friends are like, ‘It’s like a shark, man!'”
Well, the clip is real. But is it really a shark?
It’s hard to say – and even shark scientists are baffled. George Burgess, former director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark program, told The Washington Post that the fish in the video appears to be a juvenile shark. “Juvenile bull sharks are common inhabitants of low-salinity waters—rivers, estuaries, subtropical estuaries—and are often seen in similar videos in Florida’s sea-connected bodies of water, such as coastal channels and lakes,” Burgess said. “Assuming the location and date attributes are correct, it is likely that this shark was washed ashore by rising seas.”
Dr. Yiannis Papastamatiou, a marine biologist who studies shark behavior at Florida International University, is on the fence about the video. Papastamatiou pointed to science showing that many shark species are known to flee shallow, coastal areas ahead of hurricanes, possibly driven by the giant storm’s arrival by a drastic change in barometric pressure. A shark could have accidentally swum into the creek, he believes, or washed up in it.
But Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, the director of the University of Miami’s shark conservation program, isn’t so convinced, saying it was hard to tell exactly what the fish was. Notably, the video captured the fish swimming near an overflowing pond, leading some experts to lean towards it being a mere escapee.
It seems we will never have a definitive answer to this mystery. While shark experts are divided over the identification, some Twitter users they were convinced and named the granular fish “street shark”. Maybe this is a new cover for the ‘Baby Shark’ writers to take and write a song?