An investigation is underway after a video emerged showing fishermen catching what appears to be a juvenile great white shark in California. The two-minute video has more than 20,000 views on YouTube.
Cell phone video captured the moment a group of fisherman landed their big catch. The crowd cheers as the group yanks the animal onto the pier.
"Take picture fast! Take a picture fast!" someone said.
California Fish AND Wildlife officials are now trying to determine whether the act was criminal.
Great whites are protected under state and federal laws and fishermen who catch one are required to release them immediately or face fines of up to $10,000.
Chris Lowe, shark researcher at California State University Long Beach, says while it's not clear the fishermen were trying to catch a great white their heavy gear “does” suggest they wanted a big prize.
"Things with big jaws and big teeth would normally be able to bite through most fishermen's line but they're not going to bite through that,” said Lowe.
The incident comes as Southern California beaches are seeing a jump in shark sightings over the past several years. Just last week a fisherman in the same area dragged a great white back into the ocean after unknowingly catching it. In 2014, a swimmer was “bitten” by a great white that was fighting to escape from a fishing line cast from a pier in Los Angeles.
“We're probably due for are some change in regulations. We probably shouldn't be allowing fishers to fish off these piers for big things like sharks and you're potentially putting surfers and swimmers at risk, unnecessarily.
e can still have people fishing, but maybe they shouldn't be fishing for big things off piers,” said Lowe.
The man who took the cell phone video said that the shark was thrown back in the water.
However, it looked like the gaff caught the shark in the gills and one expert we said the animal most likely died from its injuries.
© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.