Alright, we get it. At one point in time, people were really scared of sharks. No one knew what they were but they saw them as a threat to our overarching dominance as the most “powerful” being on the planet … and so we started to create a whole slew of terrifying stereotypes to justify both our own fear and simultaneously encourage people to do everything possible to eradicate sharks.
Like really, we now have scientists who understand shark behaviors and their importance in the marine ecosystem … and we still see nonsense headlines calling sharks “blood-thirsty man-eaters.” Granted, shark attacks do happen and seem to be happening more frequently, but to set the record straight, no sharks are not picking off humans as a personal vendetta, there are just way, way more people swimming in the oceans. That coupled with changes in ocean temperatures as a result of man-made climate change and we’ve got a lot more sharks coming into contact with unprepared humans.
In reality, sharks should really be afraid of humans … not the other way around. Every year, we pull 100 million sharks from the oceans for the shark fin industry and as bycatch from commercial fishing. In fact, many shark species are in danger of extinction and we are seeing the effect of removing these animals from the environment in the form of declining fish populations – and some scientists even assert that lower shark populations could hinder the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change.
BUT … being ever the grudge-holding species that we are, humans just don’t seem to be satisfied with doing this damage to sharks … no, they have cooked up an even better way to decimate the shark population – hold a contest!
Yes, this is real life. There is a “monster shark” fishing tournament held across the eastern seaboard of the U.S. that happens every year.
According to The Guardian, “The north-eastern seaboard is the spiritual home of ‘monster fishing’ – a term coined in the 1950s by Montauk legend Frank Mundus (thought to be the inspiration for Quint, the monomaniacal shark hunter in Jaws). Competitions are promoted as days for families and communities to come together.”
Ah, nothing says family bonding better than catching and killin’ some sharks, huh?
The species commonly allowed by competition rules include the porbeagle, short fin mako, blue, and thresher shark. “The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the north-west Atlantic population of porbeagle as endangered; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) says the species is ‘overfished.’ The common thresher and shortfin mako are listed by the IUCN as ‘vulnerable,’ the classification before becoming ‘endangered,'” explains The Guardian.
So all around, this seems like a truly responsible and necessary form of summer fun. These contests have garnered a lot of criticism in recent years, but after whole 30 years of events, organizers are reluctant to give up on this hallowed “tradition.” The most ridiculous part of these tournaments, all the profits are donated to “causes and organizations that are committed to sustainable fishing and the preservation of marine ecosystems.” Because as they say, you’ve gotta kill some marine animals to save some….
The fact is, it doesn’t matter if people enjoy these events or they are great opportunities to socialize and celebrate the summer, we can’t afford to be so reckless with the ocean’s marine life. We cannot forget that we need a healthy ocean for our own survival. The world’s fish stocks are predicted to collapse in the next 25 years and we are dumping over 8.8 million tons of plastic trash into the marine environment annually. Shark numbers are already struggling enough, we certainly do not need to help their extinction purely for the sake of our entertainment.
You can help put an end to this mindless “tradition” by sharing this post and encouraging others to learn about sharks and the important role they play in our world.
To learn more about sharks and how to protect them, check out these resources:
- 100 Million Sharks Are Killed Every Year! Call Out FedEx to Stop Shipping Shark Fins to Help
- Shark Attack Numbers Are Up, But Sharks Aren’t to Blame!
- 10 Alarming Facts About Overfishing
- How Protecting Sharks Can Help Slow Climate Change
- Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds! Why Humans Need Sharks
Image source: Newport Monster Shark Tournament/Facebook