Shark stories don’t always have happy endings.
But this time is different.
The 7-foot-long male juvenile great white shark was found on the South Beach area of Chatham, Massachusetts in Cape Cod, according to WFSB. He was struggling to breathe and near death.
In the viral video clip, rescuers splash water on the motionless animal to keep the shark wet until rescuers arrived to release it safely by tying a rope around it and pulling it back out to sea using a small boat.
“We know that it was in bad shape, and we were trying to irrigate the gills to let the shark breathe and revive it,” Atlantic White Shark Conservancy member Cynthis Wigren explained to CNN affiliate WCVB.
The weakened predator continued to float limply when it was in the water.
“We had a period of time when it looked like it was not going to survive,” said Wigren.
In the end, the team used ropes to support the shark and guide it out to sea. When it finally swam away on its own, rescuers cheered with joy.
The Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries said it put an acoustic tag on the shark that will record the animal’s movements. That data will hopefully be downloaded by the week’s end.
“The shark was stuck there for a while in the sand, so then people got buckets and were trying keep it wet so it could continue to breathe,” eyewitness Isabelle Hegland told CBS Boston. “I was a little afraid, but I could tell it wasn’t moving anytime soon because the shore was going way out, it was approaching towards low tide so it was becoming increasingly difficult for the shark to keep its gills wet and be able to breathe.”
Witnesses said that the young shark beached itself chasing after a seagull.
Chatham harbormaster Stuart Smith was initially called to help around 1:30 p.m. When he arrived, he saw 30 to 40 bystanders, with several people pouring buckets of water on the shark’s body to keep him breathing. The people looked like “a bucket brigade putting out a fire,” Smith said.
“Twenty, 25 years ago, they wouldn’t be exactly helping the shark. They’d be harming the shark. But now every single person on that beach was trying to assist it,” he said. “The people on the beach made the difference.”
Great white sharks are listed as “vulnerable” (one step better than endangered) by the World Wildlife Fund because humans hunt them for food and sport.