Friday, June 20, 2014

Why I Don't Sell Shark

Sharks get a bad wrap.  Despite living on this earth for millions of years and being one of the most elegant, almost supernatural, creatures in the ocean, they also provide a very important role in the marine food web as apex predators.  Unfortunately for them though, their fins are considered a delicacy in some cultures.  Couple this with the sad fact that many recreational fishermen see it as a right of passage into manhood to snag a shark on their "boys" outing and it's easy to understand why several species of sharks are considered overfished or even worse, endangered.  We need to take action very soon on to protect many species of shark.  Their plight is not unlike the favorable swordfish, whose stocks were at all time lows only twenty years ago.  In the 1990's chefs got behind "Give Swordfish A Break", a movement to halt the overfishing of swordfish in domestic waters, and everyone else followed suit.  Since then, the moratorium has been lifted and domestic swordfish stocks have blossomed.  Today U.S. swordfish is considered a sustainable option at the dinner table.

So why can't we get behind sharks?  It's not like the meat is some irresistible delicacy favored by the masses.  The flesh is sweet, but the flavor is not on par with the likes of other seafood options such as halibut, snapper, or salmon.  Is there some fear imbedded deep into the fabric of our culture, put there thousands of years ago when man first ventured into the water, that sets the tone for our relationship with the graceful killers as a simple equation: it's either us or them?  Must we overcome our fear, overcome sharks really, by slaughtering them by the millions every year?  It's not an exaggeration ; about 11,000 sharks are killed every hour.  I understand there are many other hunted animals out there, such as dolphins and seals, that are PR friendly and easier to support (they definitely make better cuddly toys and logos for tee-shirts), but realistically shark populations are in much more danger.

Sharks are responsible for about 1 human death per year in the U.S.  In that same year:

  • Bees will kill 54 people    
  • Lightning will kill 90 people
  • Cows will kill 22 people
  • Deer will kill 130 people
  • Dogs will kill 31 people
  • Horses will kill 20 people
  • We will kill about 15,500 of each other

Sharks need a break from the dinner table and trophy photo op.  Commercial and recreational fishing needs to get better about leaving them alone and releasing them safely when hooked.  We all need to realize that maybe instead of fearing sharks, we should try respecting them.  They've been around a lot longer than we have.  They serve a purpose in this world and I don't think its in the form of a fillet at the local fish market.  There are arguably more likable, friendlier species to protect, but I don't think there are any that are more important.

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