An investigation is underway after a mutilated shark was found on a dock in Newport Beach.
Photos of the decapitated juvenile shark were posted online by teenager Clay Kirksey, provoking widespread outrage on social media.
Kirksey, 16, was out on the Lido Peninsula to clean his family's boat when he saw the animal's remains, according to KABC. He said at first he wasn't sure what to think.
"Is it real? Or is it not? It kind of just looked fake for a second, and then I noticed there was a trail of blood coming down from it," the teenager recalled.
He said he saw a group of four or five men, aged 30 to 40, put the shark's remains on the back of their boat, take pictures with it, and then toss the body parts onto the dock.
"Disrespecting the shark," Kirksey said. "Like they were grabbing the tail and the head and sticking it to their head and stuff. Taking pictures, biting it."
Although the species of the shark has not been officially determined, some reports indicate that it was a great white, in which case the men responsible would be subject to a criminal investigation.
Anyone who accidentally catches a white shark is required by law to immediately release it, environmental scientist Carrie Wilson told KTLA. Due to dwindling population numbers, white sharks are a protected species.
Dr. Chris Lowe of the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab told KTLA that he believes the men cut out all the meat from the shark with the intention of consuming it.
"People really shouldn’t eat these young sharks because one of our studies has found that they have some of the highest contaminant levels found in any sharks," he said.
"Eating just one piece of young white shark can give you the highest mercury level that you would get from eating any fish, and probably account for your entire mercury level for the entire year," he added.
When contacted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife about the incident, the fishermen said the shark was a mako, not a great white, according to KABC.
If it does turn out that the shark was a great white, the men would face a minimum $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail, reports KABC.