So much cocaine and other drugs are being dumped off the coast of the US state of Florida that it’s potentially sending fish “crazy”, experts have claimed.
Some sharks, possibly high, have been seen acting erratically with one swimming in circles while it eyed up an imaginary object.
Scientists found that when presented with objects resembling drug packages, sharks happily gnawed at them.
The findings are part of Cocaine Shark, a program to be broadcast as part of Discovery’s Shark Week slate of programs in the US.
“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,” Dr Tracy Fanara, a Florida environmental engineer, told The Guardian.
“If these cocaine bales are a point source of pollution, it’s very plausible (sharks) can be affected by this chemical.”
And it’s not theoretical – bales of cocaine are a semi regular sight on Florida’s beaches, usually dumped by drug traffickers fearful they’re about to get caught.
Earlier this year, the US Coast Guard said it had recovered $275 million of drugs from the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in just nine separate operations.
Florida is a major entry point for drugs into the US due to it being the closest state to Latin America where the drugs originate from.
For the Cocaine Shark show, Dr Fanara and British marine biologist Tim Hird conducted experiments off the Florida Keys.
“While we were in the Keys filming, cocaine bales were washing ashore, like twice in one week, so it’s really a prevalent issue,” Dr Fanara said.
They placed dummy cocaine bales into the water to see if sharks would be attracted to them
Sure enough, the fish chomped on the bales which had been loaded with highly concentrated fish powder to simulate cocaine.
The duo said the effect on the sharks was like catnip to cats.
“It’s the next best thing and set their brains aflame. It was crazy,” said Mr Hird.
Studies have been done on how a whole range of drugs affect fish.
However, the biologists said more research would be needed to fully determine if sharks did consume cocaine, and if so, how much.