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. Janarine

    We do not need bigger boat, we need less boat.
    Enjoy the show while you can. You are lucky to witness it, or if not, you're hit by it and die. One less creature on earth either way

    March 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Byrd

    The shark probably mistook the Texan for a tasty eel. With the exception of parts of Austin, there's nothing there but a bunch of rattlesnakes anyway.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Targeted Individual

    Watch a Pre-January 8th copy of Inception. Listen closely when the actors say imagine, reality, safe, and envelope, or point pistols. You'll hear the words, Loughner, offin' her, part of the word Giffords, and much more. Some say they hear, do it.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LMFAO

    The fish are committing mass suicide in preparation for 2012.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mohamad

    Cesar, hijo de puta

    March 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Mohammad, hijo de camello.

      March 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Spacial

    The poort shark was trying to get away from the Nuk Clear water. Or it sensed more Earthquakes are on the way.

    March 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bluewater Andy

    Two things: More boats on the water = more fish landing in them. Second, Makos are delicious!

    March 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. grumpy

    @Sarah,
    No reason to be a B about it. you on your time of month?

    March 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Fig1024

    maybe if we didn't poison the ocean, the poor sea creatures wouldn't try to leap out of it :-/

    March 30, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Terry

    Ocean dwellers realize that their world is being destroyed by humans, so they are going to jump in the boat to see why humans are hellbent to destroy their oceans.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sesame Street

    This reminds me of that Sesame Street episode where (was it Ernie?) was on the boat, cupped his hands, and said, "Heeeeree fishy, fishy, fishy!"

    March 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jazz7

      I liked the count , thought he was kinda cute when i was little HEHEHE 🙂

      March 30, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. somuchfor

    Let's see, 5 incidents in the past 20 years? Hardly statistically relevant.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Charles

    I wonder if he was piped aboard. Was some one playing with a whistle?

    March 30, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. notborncynical

    It must be a slow news day.

    March 30, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jt

    they didn't believe me when i said the fish jumped out of the coffee cup when i was cleaning his bowl BUT i can get some little kids to believe his splashing gets my computer screen wet!

    March 30, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
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