Viral photo of Tampa Bay man with tiger shark sparks investigation from wildlife officials

According to the FWC, tiger sharks are protected from commercial or recreational harvest in Florida state waters.

click to enlarge Viral photo of Tampa Bay man with tiger shark sparks investigation from wildlife officials
Photo via Real Florida hunting and fishing/Facebook

A viral photo of a tiger shark has launched an investigation from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The FWC issued notices to appear in court for two men following an incident Saturday, May 2, on the Chassahowitzka River involving a tiger shark with a rope around its tail, reports the Citrus County Chronicle.

According to the publication, the two men, who have not been identified, dragged the shark at least four miles upstream apparently for a photo op. One of the photos, showing Lutz resident Joseph Wilson dramatically holding the tiger shark, has since gone viral.

Wilson told the Chronicle that him and his friends were just hanging out at the head of the springs when the boat showed up with the shark. “I’ve never seen one before,” said Wilson. “He had a rope tied to its tail and it was still in the water. I said, ‘Can I take a picture of it?’, and he said, ‘Sure.’ I probably picked it up for about 10 seconds and then I put it back in the water.”

Jamie Causey, another onlooker at the springs that afternoon, told Fox 13 that crowds of people were gathering around to take photographs with the shark. "Then all the onlookers start photographing the tiger shark and they start tormenting it, holding it in different positions, taking pictures," she said. 

Other photos show the men passing the shark from a boat with a shark paint job. 

click to enlarge Viral photo of Tampa Bay man with tiger shark sparks investigation from wildlife officials
Photo via wildlifevoiceinc/Instagram


According to the FWC, tiger sharks are protected from commercial or recreational harvest in Florida state waters, and violators can face a 2nd degree misdemeanor. The agency issued a statement Monday, saying it was aware of the situation and that it is being taken “very seriously.” 

While the FWC said Wilson will not be charged, the 22-year-old did mention to the Chronicle that he called the agency himself and he’s still getting “chewed out” right now for the photo. 

The image of Wilson holding the shark has appeared at a number of animal rights social media pages, but the photo really took off Monday after it was posted to the Facebook group, “Real Florida Hunting and Fishing,” and racked up thousands of mostly negative comments. 

The FWC is seeking any additional information regarding the situation. Anonymous tips can be registered to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or [email protected]

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About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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