Are Sharks Consuming Cocaine within the Florida Keys?

First there was cocaine bear. Then there was cocaine cat. Now there could also be cocaine sharks. That’s the premise of considered one of this week’s Shark Week episodes, filmed within the Florida Keys, the place plenty of sharks reside, and the place smugglers often dump bundles of cocaine from Central and South America into the waters to evade regulation enforcement.

Within the episode, marine biologist and broadcaster Tom “the Blowfish” Hird and College of Florida environmental scientist Tracy Fanara staff as much as check the premise. To take action, they don their scuba gear and hop into the ocean—with a digicam staff—to look at shark conduct up shut and private. Alongside the way in which, they conduct a sequence of experiments—together with simulating a real-life drug drop and triggering apex predator dopamine rushes by feeding sharks bait balls product of extremely concentrated fish powder—to search out out if the beasts are ingesting the dumped narcotics, and, in that case, what impact the illicit medication might need on their conduct.

Spoiler alert: They don’t provide you with any scientific conclusions. However the problem is an actual one which different scientists have weighed in on in additional rigorous experimental research. In a paper printed two years in the past within the Journal of Experimental Biology, the authors concluded that methamphetamine in contaminated rivers may trigger opioid-seeking behaviors and habit in wild brown trout. The researchers additionally wrote that the addictive behaviors may doubtlessly disrupt fish migratory patterns and undermine the trouts’ capability to forage for meals and discover mates.

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In Florida, the place final month the U.S. Coast Guard offloaded over 14,100 kilos of cocaine, valued at $186 million, sharks and different ocean-dwellers would be the ones getting addicted. “The deeper story right here is the way in which that chemical compounds, prescribed drugs and illicit medication are coming into our waterways—coming into our oceans—and what impact that they then may go on to have on these delicate ocean ecosystems,” Hird instructed Dwell Science.

Whereas the present’s experiments are extra for dramatic impact designed to intrigue viewers, Hird hopes the episode will encourage extra analysis into how medication are making their method from human populations to fish populations and the way that circulation of chemical compounds would possibly have an effect on each.

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