First the story, which has also become a film, of the bear addicted to cocaine. Now in Florida there would have been cases of cocaine addicted sharks. What would appear to be, also in this case, the plot of a marine-themed disaster film, instead seems to correspond to reality: scientists think that the almost insane behavior and an out-of-the-ordinary hunger would derive precisely from the consumption of drugs by the animals.
Next July 26, an episode of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, titled “Cocaine Sharks,” examines decades-old rumors of sharks coming into contact with cocaine dumped in waters off the Florida coast. “It’s a catchy title to shed light on a real problem, that everything we use, everything we produce, everything we put into our bodies, ends up in our waste streams and natural water bodies, and these aquatic life forms that we depend on for survival are then exposed to that,” said Dr. Tracy Fanara, a Florida-based environmental engineer and lead member of the research team.
Over a six-day study and observation in the environmentally sensitive Florida Keys island chain off the southern tip of the state, Fanara and British marine biologist Tom Hird observed a variety of unusual shark behaviors: A hammerhead shark, a species that usually swam away from humans, headed towards divers, moving erratically. They also observed a gray shark swimming in circles while focusing on an imaginary object.
They also conducted experiments, including throwing dummy bales into the water, which were quickly bitten by sharks, and loading bait balls with highly concentrated fish powder to simulate cocaine. The effect, the researchers said, was similar to catnip for felines. “Something that sets their brains on fire. It was crazy,” Hird says on the show.
Florida serves as a transit point for large quantities of drugs arriving into the United States from South America, and plastic-wrapped parcels of cocaine are often lost at sea or dumped overboard by traffickers pursued by law enforcement: Last month, the US Coast Guard announced it had recovered more than $186 million worth of illegal narcotics from Caribbean and South Florida waters. But such seizures have little impact on an industry operating at record levels. In 2021, a bather in Boca Raton found a package of over 30 kilograms of cocaine on the beach.