When Hammerschlag hesitated, Boehm hung up, but not without delivering a warning first: "I'm going to throw the tag up in the air and shoot it."

That was before the shark snuff video surfaced. Now Hammerschlag is incensed.

"I don't want to start a war against commercial shark fishermen," he says. "But the guy on the video is proud of himself. It doesn't look like they are doing this to make a living. They aren't just following orders. They are clearly getting enjoyment out of seeing these animals in distress."

A still from Mike McLaughlin's shark-hunting video.
Photo by Michael E. Miller
A still from Mike McLaughlin's shark-hunting video.
Anthony Segrich recovering with his "chum bucket"after he was attacked by a female bull shark.
Photo by Michael E. Miller
Anthony Segrich recovering with his "chum bucket"after he was attacked by a female bull shark.
Segrich's leg after the attack.
Courtesy of Anthony Segrich
Segrich's leg after the attack.

Hammerschlag doesn't apologize for his affinity for sharks. Rather, his eyes light up when he's asked about his latest research. Great white sharks' teeth are loosely set in their jaws, he explains intently. They have their own nerves and blood supply, "almost like fingertips."

"They can splay them out like a cat's claws," Hammerschlag says, "and use them to gather information about objects."

Sometimes that object is a person, he admits. But even among notoriously deadly great whites, more than 90 percent of attacks aren't fatal.

"I've seen thousands of attacks on seals," Hammerschlag says. "They are brief, vertical attacks... Within seconds there is nothing left. If a white shark wanted to eat you, it could. There's nothing easier than catching a 150-pound monkey swimming in the water," he adds wryly. "They are two-ton killing machines. But there are people who have been quote-unquote attacked by a great white, with their head in its jaws, and had nothing to show for it but a couple of stitches.

"What does that tell you?" he asks. "They didn't survive because of their bravery. That was the shark's decision."

Anthony Segrich isn't so sympathetic. Since his run-in with the shark April 26, he has spent the past month in a tiny corner room at St. Mary's Medical Center in West Palm Beach. For hours every day, he cradles what looks like a small lunch cooler. A fine tube of blood runs from the contraption to Segrich's swollen, cast-covered leg.

"It's my wound vac," the Luke Wilson look-alike says with a hint of pride. "I call it my chum bucket. It's what they use in Iraq and Afghanistan nowadays to rebuild muscle tissue."

Like a war veteran, Segrich will likely be haunted by the attack for years to come. But for now, he seems strangely well-adjusted for someone who lost half his blood — and nearly his leg — by the time he arrived at the hospital. "I don't know if you're squeamish," he adds, taking out his iPhone, "but I pretty much filmed the whole thing."

Segrich shows video of the 13-inch bite marks on his left leg and the cavernous hole where his calf used to be. "It was pretty chunky at first," he says. That was before three operations, 126 stitches, and a skin graft.

Then he pulls up underwater footage a friend shot while spearfishing with Segrich. A loaded spear gun looms in the foreground. Just ahead of Segrich, a cluster of cobia shifts back and forth in the ocean current. And in the background: the unmistakable silhouettes of a half-dozen sharks, patiently circling, waiting for blood.

Segrich's shark attack is one of just a handful so far this year in Florida; none has been fatal. Last year, there were 13 attacks; the only deadly one was the incident involving the kiteboarder killed off Stuart Beach. But like many shark fishermen, Segrich says he has seen more sharks this year than ever before.

"The seasonal closures give them a chance to rebound and breed more," he says. "The season is shorter and shorter, and you're allowed to take fewer and fewer sharks. Their population is definitely rebounding. I'd like to see more shark fishing. There's definitely more of them, and they're definitely more aggressive. When those alpha males don't get taken out, they get more aggressive."

John Miller, the Jupiter fisherman who's been hunting sharks for nearly a decade, agrees. Because of restrictions that took effect this year, he's allowed to fish them only beginning July 17, when the Atlantic shark season opens. Last year, the date was January 1. Catch limits are strict. Miller blames scientists for the shorter season. "We're the ones who really see what's going on," he insists. "There ain't no shortage, I can tell you that much."

Not nearly as much shark meat is sold today as in the past, but the fins have become more popular. They routinely fetch $50 a pound — more than 50 times the value of shark meat. Rarer kinds can command $500 for the same amount. Although most of the fins make their way to Hong Kong, a half-dozen restaurants in Miami still serve shark fin soup. A few states, including Hawaii, California, Washington, and Oregon, have moved to ban shark fins altogether.

Segrich believes the restrictions on shark fishing need to be lifted. "I'm not sure the scientists know what's a healthy shark population," he contends. He also insists he won't stop spearfishing. And although he won't go Shark World XXX on the ocean creatures, he will be quicker to pull the trigger when he spots a shark.

"If I see one swimming around with a bit of wet suit in its mouth," he warns, "that one's got a bull's-eye on its back."

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