blacktip shark

Michael Roth poses with the blacktip shark before releasing it. (Photo: Michael Roth, used with permission)

Michael Roth doesn't have a world record for catching the largest-ever blacktip shark. He does, however, have a clear conscience and a good example for other fishers to follow.

Roth, an attorney from Scranton, Pa., has been an amateur fisherman for 55 years. The hobby has taken him around the world, and in January it had him searching for sharks in the Turks and Caicos Islands. As first reported by Southern Fried Science, he was off the coast of Providenciales when he saw an especially large blacktip shark glide by his boat, inspiring the experienced angler to toss a fly lure in its path and reel it in.

It soon became apparent this was no ordinary blacktip shark. The largest of that species ever caught with the equipment Roth used was 77 pounds, according to records kept by the International Game Fishing Association (IGFA). Roth estimates his blacktip weighed more than 120 pounds, and marine biologist David Shiffman agrees, writing in Southern Fried Science that it "would have easily set a new world record for this line class."

The only problem, though, is that setting an IGFA record requires taking your catch to an official weigh station. Roth was too far from shore to keep the shark alive for such a trip, so testing it for a record would have meant killing it. As he tells Shiffman, that made his decision easy: He posed for a photo with the impressive fish and set it free.

"While I would love to be a world record holder, the thought of killing this beautiful animal was completely abhorrent to me," Roth explains. "I felt so fortunate to have hooked and landed this spectacular fish. Killing it was always out of the question. Releasing this fish, and for me all fish, to keep the species healthy is a top priority for me. I always encourage all anglers to catch and release."

[Via Southern Fried Science]

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