Sharks in the Florida Keys area are giving Cocaine Bear a run for its money, according to scientists — who believe they’re getting high on quantities of the drug found in waters around the area.
Set to be explored in a forthcoming TV show on Discovery amidst Shark Week, the unusual phenomenon is said to be on the rise as drugs are dumped into the ocean.
Experts believe that the large packages of paraphernalia dropped into the seas by drug traffickers are affecting fish, sharks, and other sea creatures.
“We’ve seen studies with pharmaceuticals, cocaine, methamphetamines, ketamine, all of these, where fish are being [affected] by drugs,” Dr Tracy Fanara told The Guardian.
“If these cocaine bales are a point source of pollution, it’s very plausible [sharks] can be affected by this chemical,” she said. “Cocaine is so soluble that any of those packages open just a little, the structural integrity is destroyed and the drug is in the water.”
In June, coast guards discovered 14,153 pounds of cocaine worth more than $186 million off the coast of Miami.
Although marine experts aren’t certain that sharks are munching on these bales of cocaine, they said that the prospect of them being affected by the drug - the subject of the forthcoming Discovery show - is more than just "gratuitous entertainment."
“It’s a catchy headline to shed light on a real problem, that everything we use, everything we manufacture, everything we put into our bodies, ends up in our wastewater streams and natural water bodies, and these aquatic life we depend on to survive are then exposed to that,” says Dr Fanara.
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She also added that there’s a strong likelihood that sharks are coming into contact with these drugs due to the currents in the waters, and hosted an experiment dropping similar-looking bales into the water to see how the sharks reacted.
Researchers also used a similar stimulant to cocaine to see how the sharks' behaviour would change. Speaking to CBS News, Dr Fanara said they "did notice some strange behaviour”.
“But there's no telling whether the shark behaviour changes were associated with exposure to cocaine or if it was just a coincidence,” she added. “Definitely, more research must be done.”
[Via The Guardian]
Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter