Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?
This mako shark threw itself onto a boat off Texas on Sunday.
March 30th, 2011
01:05 PM ET

Leaping sea creatures: Do we need bigger boats?

Last Friday, a 300-pound eagle ray leaps onto a boat off the Florida Keys. On Sunday, a 375-pound mako shark jumps onto a boat off Texas.

What's up with the leaping sea creatures? Has Aquaman's telepathic message been scrambled? Are the buddies of "Jaws" seeking revenge? Are we going to need bigger boats?

Actually, "many ocean animals do jump out of the water when either chasing prey or trying to elude a predator," Timothy J. Mullican, vice president of zoological operations at the Georgia Aquarium, said in an e-mail to CNN. And the eagle ray and mako shark are both known jumpers, he said.

But plopping on a boat is far from the usual result, he said.

In the Florida case, "the presence of the boat may have spooked the eagle ray, or it may just be a one-in-a-million intersection of boat and animal," Mullican said.

And off Texas, "the shark could have conceivably been accelerating through the cloud of 'chum,' broken the surface and unfortunately found a boat occupying the space where it was going to land," Mullican said.

On landbigfish.com, fishing guide Dennis Dobson also provides a few ideas why free fish - those yet to taste the hook - jump. Females may be trying to loosen eggs for spawning, he says, and both sexes may be trying to rid themselves of parasites. Or, he writes tongue in cheek,  they may be just "flipping the fin" to fishermen.

If that's the case, then some fishermen have figured them out. They count on their catch leaping aboard. The book "Fish Catching Methods of the World" describes how fishermen in several countries rely on fish behavior instead of hooks and nets.

And leaping aquatic creatures aren't only found on oceans, rivers and lakes. I know this from personal childhood trauma. That goldfish gasping for oxygen on my childhood bedroom floor didn't jump from its bowl with a death wish, my parents assured me. That was just what fish sometimes did.

And while last weekend's two incidents were obvious shockers for those on board the two boats, imagine if a great white shark plopped onto your bow. That's exactly what happened to some German tourists off South Africa a few years ago. Get their view here.

In South Africa, the great white got away. And the Florida ray was set free. But things didn't end so well for the Texas mako or my goldfish.

[cnn-video url="http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2011/03/30/vo.tx.shark.boat.khou"%5D

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Filed under: Animals • Florida • Nature • Sharks • Texas
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. teafor2

    They're trying escape man's pollution!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SSampson

    They likely are trying to get away from the radioactive iodine floating in their home...

    March 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. M@!

    I've had many a fish take the leap from my aquarium, even with the hood in place. Fish are dumb. And perhaps it's less a matter of more fish are jumping out of the water as there are more people on the water. W/the human population explosion, the odds of such encounters are greater – which makes people dumb too.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
  4. OHMY

    This picture is sickening – ya know, if we posted pictures of HUMAN predators like this – I'd be for it – the fishermen were in the shark's territory – remember?

    March 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      so a private boat is now a shark's territory? I don't think so. You (sharks) want to come out of the water? Be prepared to suffer the consequences 😛

      March 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      You just keep thinking that the next time you're in the grocery store looking for Hamburger Helper...

      March 30, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Seaburger

    They are just trying to figure out what the heck we do up here all day. They are fish explorers.

    March 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Andrew

    To Scott, now your catching on!!!! USSA can be Un-unionized Society States of America, United Socialists States of America, Unemployed Sheeple Starving in America, Uneducated Stupid Slaves of America........keep it going!!! This is the reality of the 21st century .....USSA: keep the acronyms going!!!

    March 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Acro-phobia

      Undisciplined Schmucks Seeking Attention
      Unrecallable S@t@nists (aka Politicians) Sinking America

      March 30, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. scotchy

    If that thing jumped on my boat, I'd scream like a little girl.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • grumpy

      LOL i probably would too

      March 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bull calf

    I'm waiting to catch a bluegill that size. You want to see jumping fish ,altho not that big, get on the Illinois River. They jump by the hundreds. Sometimes in your boat and sometimes up side your head.This is no joke. Find pictures on You Tube of jumping and flying fish.They using them as flying targets for bow & arrow. This is for real. Try it.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jeanne

    what ? the ruff and tuff fishermen couln;t get him back in the water...so they shot it? bet they kick dogs too...

    March 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brian

    Why did they use a picture of Sarah Palin for this article?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ray

    If you really want answers on this, you need to find Tim Bedore and his theories on the animal conspiracy. It's not paranoia if everyone really is out to get you 🙂

    March 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. scotchy

    I think we need a statement from Bat Boy.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mike

    It's lack of oxygen in our oceams that has wildlife desperately looking in all avenues to breath... yes fish need oxygen! Pollutiion and major oil spills grossly deplete these levels.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • t

      fish can't breath oxygen from gaseous air, only oxygen dissolved in water. evolve a brain.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chris


    March 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Ricky

    the answer is LESS boats. sharks can't hop into your lap when you're playing Black Ops in the safety of your mom's basement. simple math produces this brilliant answer. i win.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
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