… making images has always been easier for me than words to express myself … and at times images are more powerful than words …
We all are informed about shark finning and manta ray killing – but until you look into the dead shark’s eye or into the Manta’s eye drained of life – only then can people understand. This is particularly true because the majority of people in the world (99% of the world’s population) are not diving and never get to the water.
We divers are in the water and we see the killing. We are aware of what’s happening and fight for change, but we are very small in number. We need you, each one of you, who receives this message – to share these words and images widely among your friends who are not divers in the USA, and elsewhere in the world…
Click here for more images of shark finning in a Facebook album.
Click here for images of manta ray killing in a Facebook album.
Click here for images of a tuna harvest in a Facebook album.
The call for action is not against the poor people of the world who hunt the sharks and manta…they hunt because they are proud people and want to feed their family too – the call for action is to the powerful people in the world and government – to offer their people another source of income and employment, to help them to earn fair living and to support their families.
I am not sure what it will take to convince the Eastern and Chinese cultures to stop consuming shark fins and manta gills, and how long it may take to make a change … however, our efforts have to be also in improving the lives of poor people, helping them, guiding them in finding other ways to make a living…if we do so, these fisherman will not go to sea for “fistful of dollars”… we need to start one village at the time, showing them the way, providing them with the expertise, training, and tools. We need to open new labor markets for them. That is how we can stop them from going to sea. They also want to stay home and see their wife and kids grow … just like we do … but starvation and poor conditions make them go where there is an easy dollar to be made … that is where poachers get us… to a fistful of dollars that takes a deep toll on life.
The 1975 Steven Spielberg movie Jaws had a universally chilling effect on the human perception of sharks and, unfortunately, firmly stamped the Hollywood version of vicious shark behavior in our memories. A more recent Hollywood effort, Soul Surfer, based on the true story of 19-year-old champion surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, left the shark out of the story, for the most part.
Sharks get a lot of bad press. But who will defend their reputation? At TEDx Conejo, I talked to an enthusiastic audience about how Jaws is a complete fabrication. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to the real nature of sharks.
End the ‘killer’ shark stereotype
Still, the misinformation and hysteria around sharks remains, and biologists, scientists, and others like myself have been working to counteract the negative shark reputation ever since.
You want the truth? The National Aquarium in Baltimore says that more people die of bee stings every year than shark attacks. And remember this: Humans are not a normal or even preferred part of the shark diet.
A number of world-famous divers, including William Winram (also known as the Shark Publicist) and Fred Buyle have been working to fight the myths around sharks and eliminate the ‘killer’ reputation of these Biganimals. These divers are known for diving with sharks and taking only their cameras – no weapons.
We recently had a well-attended scouting mission diving with the Okavango River Crocodiles, another Biganimalof seven to 12 feet in length who also comes with a sinister reputation. Our direct, personal experience – and the experiences of my crew and guests – with these river crocodiles was very different than the current public perception that labels these magnificent creatures as terrors along the river.
The Great White shark’s reputation as a nasty predator is also highly undeserved. Certainly, yes, they’re big ‒ as long as 16 feet and as heavy as two thousand pounds ‒ and they’ve got loads of teeth ‒ as many as 300 ‒ and they are powerful, but the truth is most sharks are actually quite shy and prefer to stay away from humans. Plus, they are some of the most fascinating animals you will ever encounter and some of the most rare.
Humans kill over a million sharks each year – some for their meat, cartilage and skin, some for their fins. Many are killed as bycatch by industrial fishing operations. The bottom line is that sharks have a lot more to fear from humans than the other way around. It’s not hard to figure out who the hunter is in this scenario.
What is shark finning? It means you capture a shark, slice off their dorsal fin, and then tossing the shark, who is now unable to swim, back into the water, where it dies a slow death. Brutal. But people do it, because the shark’s fins are considered more valuable than the remainder of the shark. This wasteful and destructive practice contributes to loss of thousands of these amazing creatures each year.
Here is how sharks are meant to be seen, free and wild.
In the last 15 years people – not just divers and conservationists, but a broad group of people who care about the ocean – have been campaigning against finning. Shark finning has been banned in many countries and in many international waters. Recently, the Toronto City Council voted to support a ban on the sale and consumption of shark fin and Californiainitiatedabanonsharkfinning.
Will these new laws change anything? Well, the first thing they have to change is the way people behave, and that starts with how they think about the ocean’s creatures.
You probably know that shark fin soup is considered a delicacy of the affluent in Asian culture, and it’s often served at wedding ceremonies and at restaurants as a symbol of status. The U.S. accounts for a very minor amount of shark fin sales, and so making the practice of shark finning illegal here might not change anything. Some people think it might push shark finning even further into the “black market” – raising prices and causing more of these animals to be slaughtered every year because of potential higher profit.
To help change behavior and make people more aware of the damage of shark finning, celebrities such as basketball star Yao Ming have come out on the anti-shark soup side. Fashionable restaurants are now offering soups with shark fin alternatives. Anti-shark fin soup billboards now display in bus stations in Beijing and China with the funds collected being rolled into additional anti-shark fin media campaigns. But there’s a still a lot to be done. Shark fin soup is not only fashionable among the wealthy classes of Hong Kong and China. Nevada – with a large Asian tourist trade in Las Vegas – has so far resisted a ban on shark finning.
As BrianWalsh, senior writer at TIME, recently wrote: “If we’re going to save sharks, we need to start treating them as animals worth saving.”
“Of all mankind’s impacts on nature, perhaps none is more pervasive than the systematic elimination of large animals.”
That’s what Brandon Keim wrote recently in Wired. His point is simple. Extinction of animals is inevitable; in fact, many of those who lived 20,000 years ago are gone now, and others are nearly gone: like the rinoceros and South China tiger.
But recent research has shown that when and if the world’s big animals are gone, the world will be profoundly affected. The facts are the same whether you study a coral reef where fishing has eliminated large fish, or study lakes where researchers have experimented with removing all the largemouth bass from a certain area. When the big animals were gone from those places and others, the ecosystems became instable. It seems that large animals keep things balanced in nature, and if we lose them it the world will be different place. Nature will “go on,” scientists agree. But it will be vastly different from what we know. If we lose the big animals, the Earth we live on now will not be a place we would recognize.
Amos gave a presentation about ocean conservation as part of the well-known TEDx talks. His passion for the Ocean Giants is clear, and the value of talks like this are in education – the more people come to appreciate a planet that includes big animals, the more likely we will have an Earth that our children will be able to inhabit.