SINGAPORE: Eight blacktip reef sharks were found dead, with their gills damaged, in the waters off Pulau Hantu on Sunday (Aug 28) morning.
Divers found the carcasses of the juvenile sharks during a routine dive at the island, which is located off the south of Singapore.
One of them, dive guide Rasaalika Singhania, described what she saw as a "devastating scene".
She said: "When my dive buddy pointed out the first one, I was confused and examined the body to try to understand what might have happened.
"Its jaw and fins were intact. There were several stab and slash wounds. Then a couple of metres forward we saw another, and another, and another."
Non-profit conservation group Marine Stewards said in a Facebook post that it was "saddened" to hear diver reports on the dead sharks.
It said that several divers counted about eight dead blacktip reef sharks, all at around the same area - Hantu Jetty - at a depth of 10 to 11m.
Photos posted on its Facebook page showed the dead sharks with their gills ripped or shredded.
Responding to CNA's queries, a Marine Stewards spokesperson said that according to the diver's accounts, all the sharks had damage to their gill areas.
"This might have been caused if they had been caught in a net. The gill area is more fragile and may have been injured in their struggle.
"We are not absolutely sure at this stage and perhaps a post-mortem may be able to reveal more answers," said the spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that gill nets are "generally an indiscriminate killer" and catch anything that passes through.
"There have been cases in recent years of turtles and blacktip sharks getting caught in them."
Another diver who saw the dead sharks on Sunday, Mr Tsu Soo Tan, said that the first one he saw had its mouth torn, "like a hook and line had been torn off".
He then spotted another three with the same injury on his way back to the boat.
"It was on another dive that another diver noticed the wounds at the gills of all the dead sharks that looked like they have been speared across through the part near the gills," said Mr Tsu.
Ms Rasaalika said that it is rare and a privilege for divers to see a shark in Singapore waters.
"I've never seen one underwater till today. And I saw (dead sharks).
"Sharks are critical to our ecosystem and I cannot begin to fathom why someone would do this."
Ms Rasaalika added that she saw a lot of trash underwater during the dive, and retrieved multiple fishing lines about 20 to 30m in total, as well as large lead fishing weights and hooks tangled around the corals.
"All of this suffocates corals, traps creatures big and small, and devastates the ecosystem," she said.
In 2021, at least 12 young black-tipped reef sharks, along with other marine creatures, were found dead in a 500m-long gill net at Pulau Semakau.