One-Eyed Albino Shark Caught In Baja, Scientists Baffled

The recent discovery in Mexico of a one-eyed albino baby shark has created a stir among scientists and piqued the interest of thousands who have seen the images and questioned the authenticity of the find. The three-foot-long fetus was removed from the body of a large bull shark captured by a commercial fisherman in the Sea of Cortez beyond La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur.

The story broke late last week on the Pisces Sportfishing blog, under the headline, “Freak Shark Puzzles Scientists.”

Pete Thomas Outdoors then shared the top right image with two well-known shark experts in California. Both were skeptical at first, suggesting it was some kind of hoax.

One of them jokingly identified the species as a “Cycloptomus” because of a perfectly centered eye located just above the mouth.

But renowned shark expert Felipe Galvan confirmed having seen the shark and stated that he has produced a paper on the discovery, which is under scientific review. “When I have an answer from the journal I will give you more information,” he said via email.

The story began to circulate widely on shark-related websites. A post on the Shark Diver blog stated, “The eye is the freaky part and we might have called “Faux Shark” on this one until word that renown shark scientist Dr. Felipe Galvan had seen, studied, and produced an initial paper on this otherworldly animal.”

On Sunday, Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager at Pisces in Cabo San Lucas, posted more details after interviewing the fisherman who caught the pregnant bull shark.

It was caught on a large hook baited with ballyhoo, tethered to a line beneath a buoy fixed in place by another line anchored by a sand bag. The shark was dead when it was hauled up, long after the set was made near Cerralvo Island.

It was taken ashore and filleted, a process that revealed nine normal pups and the albino, one-eyed fetus.

“The fisherman told me that this one would have been born first, due to the position it was in — first in line at the exit, but that he doubted that it would have survived,” said Ehrenberg, who did not reveal the fisherman’s name.

Shark fishing is controversial because so many species are in decline, but residents of fishing villages in coastal Baja communities know of no other way to make a living and rely on whatever bounty they can catch to provide for their families.

Said Ehrenberg, a strong proponent of marine conservation: “It’s kind of sad to see a female with pups inside killed but this was taken by a commercial fishing skiff and this is how this fisherman makes his living. All parts of the shark are used, including the skin. The meat is salted and sent to mainland Mexico, where it is usually sold as bacalo or “cod.”

Photos courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing

{ 20 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Kathy L Carrillo

    To begin with, I believe the photo is false. For many reasons.. Second, the fisherman should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and suffer severe consequences for his actions. It’s ignorant people like him that is killing the future of our ocean’s eco system and all marine life. Including the human race!

    • Proust Nathan

      How can you say the photo is false ? please argue cause for me it seems perfectly normal.

      second, do you have read the entire article or .,, you’re just dumb ?

  • J. Andrew Thames

    Yes Kathy, lets punish a group of people for living the only way they know how because it doesn’t fit into your vision for the human race and the future.

  • Finn M.

    As much as I am generally an animal activist and try to be conscious about the conservation of our planet and in particular our oceans, I have to agree with J. Andrew Thames on this one. People have to make a living however they can, you wouldn’t punish another animal (besides humans) for killing an endangered species, would you?
    You could use the excuse that humans are far more intelligent, but the fact of the matter is species have been dying out since the dawn of time, and even though we’re speeding up the process, it wouldn’t stop altogether without us anyway.

    On topic however, looks like an interesting find, but the eye looks pretty off to me. Looks like Pleakley from Lilo and Stitch.

  • Kelly

    It would be one thing if they were catching sharks, lobbing off the parts they wanted and tossing the rest of the carcas. But all of the sharks that these people catch are being used, either in food or medicine or what have you, and the money helps them to survive. I can’t imagine life is very easy down there, especially when you don’t have much.

    That said, this cyclops shark is horrifying. It does look very fake, but I think that’s just because it looks like something I’ve never seen before. I’m willing to believe the shark expert in this case.

    Imagine if it had lived and grown up…picture THAT thing swimming at you.

  • riley

    I agree that the fishermen have to make a living, however, if they don’t practice conservation soon their livelihood will be obsolete. If they keep fishing the way they are without trying to leave time for some replenishment their overall haul will decline and is declining as we speak. Conservation may sound silly to some people but if you think about the long term affects especially pertaining to people that need to make money from it, it isn’t so silly afterall. I agree. The eye looks off, however, the fetus clearly had poor genetics and would have either been still-born or killed by the other healthier pups. I’m sure this happens all the time, they just never survive to adulthood.

  • mikeday

    the people of baja mexico are only adapting to the world in the same way nature is adapting to our abuse of it. these people need to eat, there children need food and clothes too. Not all are so fortunate as to have the blessing of being born in the ridiculously advantageous land of the ‘free’. I’d like to see you contesting the way people fish in thailand after seeing how they live off the water. man has to eat, and the way they are subsiding through a hand to mouth existence leave little room for criticism, let alone the criticism of a foreigner who probably doesn’t know what it means to starve. Kathy, spend some time in mexico w/o bringing a credit card or lots of american cash. i promise you will be hard strapped to find a way to feed yourself w/o tetering on the verge of jeopradizing your personal beliefs about animal rights. we are the shepards of the earth. those who can make an impact ought to, but those who are forced to live in a way in contrast to the more civilized world, simply have to do so to get by. let life take its course, dont judge.

  • William

    This kind of birth defect is not unknown to developmental biologists (myself included). All vertebrates are subject to neural tube defects of many different varieties. Sadly, it’s not too uncommon in mammals including humans. Google “anencephaly” if you aren’t squeamish about pictures that some might find grotesque and want to learn more about this very real birth defect. And ladies of childbearing age: take your folate; it reduces the risk of neural tube defects should you get pregnant.

  • Alex Murdoch

    Just who the Hell do they get for scientists anyhow? I can just imagine the interview “Hurp, derp, I’m a scientist, derp derp derp, I’m baffled.”

  • jessica

    this is just what nature sometimes puts out into the world so us humans can look and speculate at the wonder of it i think its pretty cool that it is what it is and its sad to think that it might have lived and we never got to see it.

  • Ruby

    I actually have a hard time believing it’s fake rather than true.They couldn’t fake something like this, they probably wouldn’t be able to even if they tried, not that I’m insulting Mexican fisherman, I’m Mexican myself, and knowing my culture, they wouldn’t do something like that because they’d think it’d be pointless (and stupid). Besides, we see so many kinds of abnormalities in humans, other animals can’t possibly be exempt from genetic mutations/birth defects.

  • Greg

    Some of you are idiots, defending this fisherman with what sounds like, “all fisherman in mexican are poor and need to eat” well the same way you guys attack kathy, you have to look at it from BOTH sides. Stop just throwing your morale compass around attacking people with “we all have to
    eat” wtf makes you think he had to eat a shark, for one, when theres plenty of “safer” fish to catch in the ocean. If you “had” to eat and decided to go catch a shark out of all the fishes to eat, you truly are…erhm, lets say, R-E-T-A-R-D-E-D. He could spend his time catching more edible fish instead of this one, there was absolutely no need for this shark to die. And you guys are all assuming just because this report says “ooooh hes going to use every part of the shark” OF COURSE THEY’D SAY THAT. Why don’t you think they gave his name, because when they give these stories they edit it to the point where its exactly what the people want to hear “aaaaw poor little fisherman, he killed a pregnant shark, but it wasn’t his fault, since hes going to use every part of it for his family” PSH, please, what a convenient excuse. Honestly, we really don’t know what happened for real, all we know is a shark died, and a strange fetus was found really. You don’t know anything about this fisherman, his name, his life, so stop attacking Kathy saying that the fisherman didn’t deserve it, because you don’t know if the reason hes a poor fisherman is because of his own ass, or if he was born into a wealthy family and just made irresponsible choices. Either way the point is, if we let our morals dissuade us from following the law, whats the point of law? You guys are actually defending lawlessness just because some people are unfortunate? Life isn’t fair but law is law, if we don’t follow it no matter the circumstances might as well result to anarchy. Bigots, and yea you say all people have to eat now, but you realize how many UNFORTUNATE people there are? So what? We have to ignore the law for all of them and let them do whatever they want to help themselves and their families? Idiots, of course there are always going to be people who are less fortunate, doesn’t mean we let them continue to destroy our environment and kill off animals because they need to feed their families, because once the last fish is gone, you and your family is screwed, and i bet every single one of you wouldn’t sacrifice your well being and family for some unfortunate strangers benefit. Thats right, so shut up, think a bit, and realize if he did kill this shark then he did something he didn’t “need” to do and he needs to be punished. Stop defending him just cause hes a poor fisherman who needs a way of living. If he wants he can go fish for “Normal” fish, instead of killing off sharks.

    • Red Dead Redemption

      What makes YOUR first world white person laws of morals BETTER than his? HOW do you know he’s not really poor and lives life by a completely different code of ethics? Do you know him? Do you live there and know for a fact that they can and do live by First World rules? Does he even know that’s he’s supposed to be living his life to your standards? Honestly, you and Kathy both just sound like internet trolls just looking to get people hot and bothered. Now I expect you to either b/c come a flamer over this post OR hairflip.

  • Gary Bulla

    I spend three months out of the year hosting flyfishing trips a few houses away from where this fisherman lives. First, it is not a fake.I know the shark fishermen in the area quite well. They do use all of the shark, but there is still a problem. The reason they fish for sharks so intently (there were 250 shark bouys out during their season) is that they get a lot of money for the fins from Asia. Ten large sharks in a good days harvest can net $1000 for the fisherman. The problem for them is that they are fishing themselves out of a living. there are lots of rumours flying around that it will soon be illegal to fish for them, because Mexican scientists are seeing huge declines in shark populations. They don’t reproduce fast enough to take this kind of pressure. After all 20 per cent of the worlds shark harvest comes from the Sea of Cortez. As with the loggers for old growth trees and the fishermen fo cod in the Atlantic-at least some of the fishermen must be retrained for other vocations-or the populations of sharks will never recover enough to be commercially viable. I doubt if the lovers of shark fin soup or there countries will give restraint a second thought. You have to look at the big picture-emotional reactions don’t help.

  • Jeff

    I only read through half of the comments before I had to stop and just laugh, The same people who are saying he should be prosecuted are probably the same people who hunt deer and bear for fun just to hang the skin or head in their house. Not that all mexican or any other fishermen who fish to feed or provide for their families are poor.. But I’m sure the families and fisherman in these small fishing villages have been doing the same thing practically the same way for thousands of years. Why aren’t you yelling about prosecuting the people who drill for oil and destroy the ocean like that? Because that would actually affect you, you would have to actually walk places or bike instead of driving your vehicle a few blocks or so to the store, Oh No! Theres nothing anyone can do about their fishing practices and getting all P.O’ed on this blog certainly wont make a difference lol. As for that shark, I’ll keep up with the story but that eye looks awefully strange, almost like a human eyeball just shoved in there.. I’m no shark expert but I’m pretty sure they dont have brown eyes or eyes like a human in anyway.. only time will tell though I guess, Cool find/photoshop none the less however it turns out lol

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