Shark fishermen out on a limb over leg prank

CanWest News Service
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It could have been a scene from Jaws. RCMP - and coast guard on both sides of the border - went on the alert Sunday morning when fishermen off the coast of Nova Scotia reported a shark with a leg in its mouth. The appendage turned out to be a prosthetic limb that the fisherman attached to the beast, but the panic was real.

It could have been a scene from Jaws. RCMP - and coast guard on both sides of the border - went on the alert Sunday morning when fishermen off the coast of Nova Scotia reported a shark with a leg in its mouth. The appendage turned out to be a prosthetic limb that the fisherman attached to the beast, but the panic was real.

"Any time you get a body part like that, it becomes suspicious in nature,' said Col. Joe Taplin, spokesman with Nova Scotia RCMP. "It's just something out of the ordinary."

The fish story began when fishermen aboard the Sarah and Dillion hauled a shark on board. One of the men decided it would be hilarious if he unhooked his prosthetic limb, put it in the belly of the beast and then took photos.

Soon, news of the tomfoolery began crackling across shortwave radios among the boats fishing off George's Bank. The problem began when crew aboard another boat, the Ocean Legend, took seriously the reports of a shark with a man's leg clamped between its jaws.

The crew contacted the Canadian Coast Guard, which in turn informed Nova Scotia RCMP. The coast guard dispatched the light icebreaker the Edward Cornwallis to investigate, while the RCMP readied its major crime unit and informed the medical examiner.

Across the border, the American authorities caught wind of the news and went on high alert.

"You always fear the worst," Taplin said. "Plus, it gets hopes up for individuals who might be missing loved ones out at sea."



It took 3 1/2 hours for the coast guard ship to meet the Sarah and Dillion. If the ship followed procedure, the crew likely would have requested that the fishermen put the leg on ice to preserve the limb.

The coast guard were ready to seize the shark and the leg and transport everything to RCMP waiting at Clark's Harbour, where the fish and the limb would have been sent to the medical examiner's office.

But Mike Bonin, a spokesman with the Canadian Coast Guard, said the actual procedure was never carried out "because when the ship arrived, they realized it wasn't an actual leg."

Taplin said no charges will be laid as a result of the search and rescue operation and that the fishermen never meant for the joke to get out of hand.

"To credit the other fishermen who reported it, they did the right thing. They thought this was real and they reported it to the coast guard, which were the appropriate steps to take."

For his part, Bonin said the coast guard takes every call seriously. "We respond to a variety of calls, from flare sightings to man overboards. This definitely was different though, that's for sure."

Organizations: RCMP, Canadian Coast Guard, Clark's

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, George

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