Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sharks Myths and Misconceptions: the hits just keep on coming

While NGOs are working to improve government and public opinion regarding the need for shark conservation and protection, we are still getting items popping up that either fuel the myths and fear that people have about sharks, perpetuate bad ecology, or are just plain dumb.
  • A shark of, as yet, undetermined species bit a surfer at North Avalon beach in Sydney, Australia yesterday. This has been the third such incident in 18 days - the other two attributed to a bull and white shark. While the beach has been temporarily closed, the Australian press has done a pretty fair job of keeping a lid on the potential for shark hysteria. What has been interesting is to watch the news as it travels across the worldwide media: what becomes less newsworthy is the pronouncements for calm as the focus leans towards the recent frequency, subtly (or not so subtly) introducing the fear element. (Article.)
  • Again using the element of fear: faced with a government mandated 40% reduction in their catch limits of sharks, Australia's Queensland Seafood Industry Association is claiming such a reduction will generate more shark attacks. But scientists, like Dr. Colin Simfendorfer, argue that the commercial catch primarily consists of smaller, harmless species, "Most of the commercial catch is things like milk sharks, black tips, spot tail sharks and scalloped hammer head, which are relatively small and really don't hassle the people." In opposition, fisherman are using inflammatory language. "The ramification from this decision is you are putting human life at risk," said fisherman Greg Radley. "People that allow their children to swim in the ocean deserve to know these things so they can make up their own minds about the dangers." Again, it would seem that, to some, when humans enter a foreign ecosystem, they trump all other considerations. (Article.)
  • With the passing of Frank Mundus, famous (or infamous) shark fisherman, the fate of his vessel, the Cricket II, was determined through auction and the new owner plans to continue to use it for shark fishing (there are still shark fishing tournaments taking place in the New England area, taking sharks for no other reason other than trophies and prize money). My colleague at Shark Diver, Patric Douglas, had made a generous pre-auction bid to the Mundus estate which was refused; the auction ultimately brought in a figure much lower than Patric's. His intent was to use the vessel for shark ecotourism but it would appear that, for the moment, an infamous lineage will continue. (SharkDiver posting.)
Grumble, grumble, grumble. . .

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