Sledge the Hammerhead and the Longlines
“We don’t want Sledge on our team, we’ll lose!” Billy was the biggest of all the juvenile great hammerheads he knew, already 5.7ft in length. Sledge was the smallest and the slowest, at only 4.9ft, and nobody ever wanted him on their team. “Let’s play tag instead!”, said Marty, “at least that way we’re all playing against each other”. “Tag, you’re it!” Billy flicked Marty with his tail and the hammerheads raced around each other, their tails carving through the murky water at speed. Marty chased a middle-sized hammerhead named Joanna, until she reached some rocks and had to swim up to avoid them. “Gotcha!” Joanna turned and noticed Sledge, laying low near some banks of seaweed. “Oh no Sledge, it’s not hide and seek! Tag, you’re it!” Sledge put on a spurt to catch up with the others, but they knew they were faster and swam rings around him, taunting him: “can’t catch me!” “You guys are mean!” protested Sledge. “I’m off.” He turned tail and swam fiercely in the opposite direction. “Stop, Sledge! Don’t go that way, you’ll hit the long lines!” “Pfft, the longlines. I don’t care.” Thought Sledge. “Big fishermen’s nets don’t scare me, I have near 360-degree field of view! No need to worry about me.” With a flick of his tail, he pressed on determinedly, as far away from the others as possible. “They won’t miss me.” Suddenly, he saw what looked like a glistening bait ball in the distance. Hundreds of shiny silvery fish tightly packed together. Hungry for a snack, Sledge charged towards it. As he moved closer, he saw it was in fact a cluster of tuna fish bobbing in the waves. “Yummy!” thought Sledge, as he lunged towards them, jaws open wide… “Owwww!” Sledge cried, “did something bite me?” Sledge could smell that he was bleeding and it hurt a lot. But what was worse, he couldn’t move. Looking around in panic he saw a line above him and fishing hooks dangling by his side.
What is a longline? Image: Ocean Bites
“So this is the long line.” Sledge thought to himself. They said his uncle had been here once, and had never come back. Sledge struggled, but try as he might, he could not free himself. How he wished he had listened to his friends. But they would have forgotten about him by now anyway. “Sledge! Sledge!” Billy emerged from the murkiness of the deep, Marty and Joanna close behind him. “Stay still, we’ll get you out of this!” Billy started biting at the hook, trying to get it out, but it wouldn’t budge. “I can’t get it out!” “I know what to do”, exclaimed Joanna, “we’ll cut you loose”, and with that, she started biting at the line near the hook, her sharp teeth slicing through the fishing tackle. Luckily, it was made of nylon not wire, so her powerful jaws were able to quickly break the line, setting Sledge free. “You came to save me!” Sledge cried, a little surprised at the risk they had taken to rescue him. “Of course!” said Billy, “you’re our friend, and we were worried about you!” “Thank you!” Said Sledge, “I wish the ocean could be safer for us all, because not every creature will be so lucky.” “You’re right”, Joanna replied, “but who can help us…?” “Tag, you’re it!” Sledge sped off into the big blue, happy to have his friends by his side once more.
Impacts of longlines Image: Greenpeace