This should go without saying: the "shark shotgun" is a bad idea.

The shark shotgun. @tfmspringbreak

A post shared by TFM (@totalfratmove) on

In the days since it was posted by self-proclaimed "dangerously entertaining college site" Total Frat Move (TFM) to an Instagram account dedicated to spring break, this display of bro behaviour has been shared over 500,000 times and racked up some 20,000 likes.

Whatever your stance on issues relating to sharks or shark fishing, there are some important facts to set straight about this clip for anyone thinking about copycatting such stunts. But first, let's take a look at TFM's response to all the outrage the video has caused:  

"I can admit that it's in relative poor taste," writes Dillon Cheverere, the President of Media at Grandex, Inc, TCM's umbrella company. "But it's not so bad that it deserves all this attention, or even close to it. This is just the next thing that the angry internet mob is seeking their teeth into. Did using the shark’s teeth to puncture a beer upset the shark? I don't believe so, because it was dead. If I was dead and someone hollowed out my skull to use it as a bong and uploaded a video of it, would I be upset about it? Probably not."  

While there's no doubt that some responses to the video – including death threats and racial slurs aimed at those involved – have been unacceptable, it's also true that wildlife harassment is an offence that should be taken seriously – even when the animal in question is no longer alive. According to most reports, the shark did in fact wash up dead* on the beach prior to the beer-drinking brouhaha, but messing with beached marine life (dead or alive) can still land you in trouble. Just last year, a pair of Australian residents faced $19,900 in fines after "surfing" on an apparently dead sea turtle, for example.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the fallout from the stunt, Cheverere did ask an important question: "Are sharks endangered? And if so, what kind?" 

The answer to his first question is yes. Many sharks – including hammerheads and whale sharks – are listed as endangered, and most are considered vulnerable or threatened. This particular shark may have been dead already, but harassing a live animal could certainly injure or kill it. Despite their fearsome reputations, many shark species are sensitive to stress, and they all need water to breathe. For these reasons, time spent on the sand can turn deadly fast. This individual appears to be a reef shark, which means it doesn't fall into the most vulnerable category, but killing or harassing protected species can result in jail time. 

If trouble with the law or a dent in your savings account is not enough to convince you to stick to more conventional beer shotgunning tools, we've got a few other reasons lined up.

Fish out of water tend to thrash about, but an exhausted animal can look much less lively, making it easy to mistake a live shark for a dead one (just look at this fisherman's "dance" with a ragged-tooth). Had this duo made the same mistake, the incident could have ended differently. Sharks are extremely flexible, and their behaviour can be unpredictable – you might think you've got a solid hold on one, but keeping the toothed end of the animal in a safe position can be harder than it looks. What's more, shark skin is covered in tooth-like plates known as dermal denticles that can burn you like rough carpet. Even small pups can do damage when mishandled or harassed:

[This video may be disturbing to some viewers.]

Shark shotguns aside, it seems Total Frat Move has made a habit of promoting wildlife harassment. On the upside, aggregator sites like this one make it easier for officials to find perpetrators – which is probably something these humans should keep in mind:

Drinking jellyfish is dangerous and stupid.

The jelly fish shotgun.

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 19, 2017 at 3:06pm PDT

So is drinking crabs.​

That thing is swimming around in his stomach wreaking havoc.

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 15, 2017 at 11:23am PDT

Using a starfish as a booze luge could kill it.

The starfish luge.

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 14, 2017 at 10:10am PDT

Grabbing gulls is illegal

Man vs. Seagull Seagull wins round one.

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 15, 2017 at 12:01pm PDT

Taking time out to enjoy the wildlife on spring break. #TFM

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 8, 2017 at 11:57am PST

And so is jumping into shark tanks at well-known resorts...

Sharks in the water.

A post shared by 🏖TFM SPRING BREAK CONTEST '17🏝 (@tfmspringbreak) on Mar 15, 2017 at 5:12pm PDT

*UPDATE 23 March, 2017: 

In response to criticism online, Flagler College junior Giorgio D'Auria (the owner of the shark shotgun clip) issued the following response, which confirms that the reef shark was alive on the beach: 

"For those who sadly have seen my video online, I apologize," he wrote on Instagram. "In afterthought I realize it was a horrible thing to have done and just as bad to post it. The truth, which people posting were not aware of, is that we were fishing on the beach and happened to catch this shark. Seconds after it was pulled out of the water, I opened the beer on its tooth, which I know ... was a stupid and unkind move. The video, which is nine seconds long, was how long we had the shark on the sand. It was put back in the water where it belonged. It seemed relatively harmless to me at the moment, but looking back on my actions, I deeply regret having done it, and I don’t want anyone thinking it is okay. Some things you think about doing are better left undone, and this was definitely one of them. The reasons I temporarily removed myself from social media was due to the terrible messages I was receiving. Please be forgiving, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from this. People make mistakes. That’s why there are erasers at the end of every pencil."


Top header image: Robin Hughes/Flickr