PREFACE (based on persoanl communication by Ian Fergusson)
During August 1998, Grant Sonex and Mark Carwardine of the BBC Natural History Unit produced a documentary for BBC Radio 4 regarding Mediterranean white sharks. Whilst in Malta they discovered a second fisherman, Mr Vince D'Amato, also of Wied-iz-Zurrieq (like A. Cutajar). According to him, the animal was first ensnared in his net, then as it partially escaped, becomes entangled in Cutajar's lines. They also discovered a photograph at a local newspaper ( the 'In-Nazzjon Taghna" published in Maltese) which allowed a better total length (TL) estimate. According to a police forensic expertise requested by the BBC, TL was estimated to be about 5.5 m. John Abela was aware of this photograph and complained at the time to the editor that the reporter cites the shark as being '18 feet long'. The BBC reporters later phoned John Abela and put the fresh conflicting evidence to him. In that taped interview - and under mounting pressure, caught totally off-guard he admits that he may have measured the shark incorrectly.
Aqua 31 January, 1989 (translation of Italian to English by Anne Mollet, Spanish teacher, checked and improved by Piergiorgio Stipa, visiting student MLML)
This is the story of one white shark captured in Malta April 17, 1987. Alfredo Cutajar, a local fisherman, of the fishing village called 'Wied-iz-zurrieq' was out for his daily tour. It was the time of the year for fishing tuna and swordfish, so he had a hook 25 cm long tied to a big rope and a ballast of stone. It is a type of fish that is very popular for Maltese fishermen because of always excellent profits. But this time not a single tuna or swordfish was biting Alfredo's steel hook (Alfredo is nicknamed "Son of God" by everyone because he is the only one who catches all the biggest sharks that visit our waters).
At exactly 4:30 a.m.. on April 17th, Alfredo boarded his 5 meter boat, powered by a 9.9 cv outboard, prepared for his lonely tour of checking his hooks and collecting his bait. After about 1/2 hour he arrived at the point where he left, as a rule, his first hook. His lines were always connected to a big marker, either a big cork or an empty jug. Checking them one by one, he saw that one of the cork floats was submerged and that something big was attached: a swordfish or maybe a tuna.
He approached the float and tried to anchor the rope of the line but it was too heavy and stuck. He looked around hoping to see someone in the vicinity who could help him. He saw a big fishing boat and began signaling so that it would come to help him. Quickly the big fishing boat reached him and soon the line was fastened to the windlass and hoisted on board. While this was going on, Alfredo noticed an enormous white shape coming out from the deep blue sea. Nearer the surface, Alfredo realized that he was dealing with a gigantic shark that was struggling for life. Little by little it was brought to the surface: it was almost two times the length of Alfredo's boat. It was so enormous that it was necessary to hang it alongside the big fishing boat and it took three hours to return to the village. When they arrived, the shark was still showing signs of life while the people gathered around to look at it. But disappointingly, the shark was too heavy for the available dock davit, which was used only for hauling small boats, so the big fishing boat and shark went back to sea to another fishing village, Marsaxlokk, where there is a crane on the dock. There also a big crowd gathered. I was present, with a tape measure, in order to take down all the shark data.
The monster was barely out of the water up to its stomach when I and another fisherman began to cut it open. We pulled out a completely intact 2 m blue shark, a dolphin of about 2.5 m in two pieces and a 70 cm turtle. Only the head of the dolphin was in a state of putrefaction. The liver of the shark measured from one end to the other about 4 m. When it was carried to land and completely examined, we realized we were dealing with a female. The uterus open, I discovered that only a week before she had given birth to 10 pups, after 22 months of pregnancy. Therefore being very hungry, she swallowed all that happened to come in front of her. That is normal for a white shark. Moreover, normally the male remains around the female until the end of the gestation and the birth of the pups. That must have been what happened too to Alfredo's shark because a male was seen in the area during those days and a fisherman who had caught a glimpse of it described it as about 6 meters long. And also this confirms the hypothesis that the male is always smaller than the female. Other proof that a white male shark was around was the statement of a local fisherman who told of having found a broken steel line without its 25 cm hook.
To be sure I measured our shark two times from the point of the snout to the point of the upper lobe of the tail. It was 7 meters and 14 centimeters long. Considering the curve of the abdomen, I was able to arrive at 8.85 meters, but that wouldn't be correct because the shark is to be measured in a straight line. And it is the new record, the previous one was that of a 6 meters and 40 centimeters shark captured at Castillo de Cojimar (a few kilometers from Havana, Cuba) in March of 1945, also a female of about 3 tons. It is the biggest and officially verified by the Guinness book of records, because all the other examples captured couldn't ever be proved. But now, the 7 meters 14 centimeters shark captured in Maltese waters has surpassed the record. The length has been confirmed by three scientific marine institutes. The weight has been estimated at 3 tons including stomach contents and liver. The age is estimated at 25/30. I concluded the age after having estimated the rings of one of the central vertebrae below the dorsal fin (Note that the original said "central vertebrae of the dorsal spine"). The jaw belongs to me and is exhibited in the government museum of history and culture on the island of Gozo. Luckily the shark did not break any teeth trying to free itself from the steel hook. It is the most complete and biggest white shark jaw in the world.
It is not the first white shark caught in Malta. Previously, in March, l973, Alfredo Cutajar captured another about 6 meters long. If have the jaw of another about 4 meters long. Other than these I have a wide collection of shark teeth fossils. The collection includes teeth of 2 mm to big ones of 16 cm of the Carcharodon megalodon.