Friday, June 26, 2009

Op Ed - Ireland Shark Kill

We have been following the eco blow back of a single, record Six Gill take, off the coasts of Ireland this week. When one dead shark becomes an ambassador for change.

Today another pro shark Op-Ed appeared in The Independent summing up the issue of sport take sharks.

Killing a majestic shark just for the ego-massage is plain wrong
By Ian O'Doherty

Friday June 26 2009

So, here's the deal. You like fishing, and while on holidays in County Clare you go out onto the water and before you know it, you get a bite. A big one, maybe even the biggest you've ever had.

So, after hours of battling the beast, you finally reel it in -- and discover that you've just nabbed a record-breaking half-tonne, six-gill shark.

They're incredibly rare off our waters and, for catching it with just a rod and line, Swiss angler Joe Waldis certainly deserves respect.

But to then have the shark killed so he could take it ashore and massage his ego by having his picture taken with this majestic creature was utterly despicable; a classic illustration of what happens to animals when man's ego crosses their path.

It's ironic that Waldis should land the fish in the same week that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature issued an alarming report warning that up to a third of the world's sharks and rays face imminent extinction due to over-fishing and the truly barbarous practise of 'finning'.

As shark fin soup continues to be a prized delicacy in Japan -- where, like just about every other food item they eat over there, it's seen to have aphrodisiac qualities -- thousands of sharks are caught every month.

When they're dragged aboard, their fins are sliced off and then the shark, still alive and in unbelievable pain, is unceremoniously dumped overboard, where it corkscrews down to the bottom, promptly drowning.

And, frankly, there is no difference in what those charming Japanese do to defenceless sharks to what Waldis did.

I'm certainly no vegetarian; indeed I'm a proud carnivore.

And when that creature is as rare and endangered and beautiful as a six-gill, it should be a crime to kill it simply to take a picture of the carcass.

Terrifying and majestic, these incredible creatures have a virtual stranglehold on the imaginations of millions, largely, but not entirely, down to Spielberg's classic Jaws.

That film seared itself into the psyche of several generations and, personally, still remains my favourite film of all time -- the pull shot focusing on Brody's face when the Kintner boy is attacked is still one of best pieces of cinematography in modern cinema history -- and it is certainly responsible for captivating millions of people.

After all, everyone's afraid of the dark and it doesn't get darker than the ocean depths and the creatures concealed within.

The irony of the success of Jaws, both the book and the movie, is that it led to the slaughter of tens of millions of sharks, as idiots everywhere decided they were going to become real-life shark hunters like Quint.

It was a situation which haunted the author, Peter Benchley, who then spent the rest of his life fighting for shark conservation.

The guilt of the unintended consequences of his actions virtually broke the man and, before his death from cancer when he was asked what his biggest regret was, he replied, tragically: "Writing Jaws."

The irony of being haunted by his most famous creation wasn't lost on him, and he spent his life spending the millions he made from the book and movie on shark conservation programmes in a desperate attempt to try and absolve himself of some of the crushing guilt he felt every day.

When asked about the possibility of an updated version of the film, he once commented: "Well, the shark could not be the villain; it would have to be the victim, for sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors.

"Interestingly, Ireland is one of the finest shark fishing spots in the world, with the nutrient-rich waters off our West Coast regularly attracting large Blues and Makos.

And earlier this month, there were rumours of a Great White being spotted off Cornwall.

So, when you consider that Whites have been found in the Bay Of Biscay, there's no reason why they shouldn't make it as far as Cornwall. And, if they can get as far as Cornwall then there's no reason why, much to the excitement of Irish shark lovers, they couldn't make it to our waters.

But I would fear for any Great White which would swim through our waters -- you can imagine the media hysteria, the panicked calls to Joe Duffy from parents who are afraid to let their precious children into the water and the general lack of composure that seems to afflict most people when the word 'shark' is mentioned.

But it's not just sharks that are needlessly killed.

Only a few months back, the papers were full of pictures of a woman who had paid to go to Zimbabwe so she could fulfil her rather odd ambition -- to kill an elephant with a bow and arrow.

The pictures of Teresa Groenwald-Hagerman proudly standing over the corpse of that once proud creature, beaming smugly at the camera holding the bow and arrow thankfully blew back into her face and it wasn't long before her personal details were up online and she was bombarded with thousands of abusive emails.

Despite what the lunatics in groups such as PETA would have you believe, there's nothing morally wrong about hunting for meat.

We are, after all, carnivores and are top of our food chain -- as sharks are in their environment.

But if you're going to kill something, kill it for the pot.

Anyone who kills something as beautiful as a shark simply for the ego massage is, frankly, a bit of a bastard.

And bags me first into the water if we ever do see a Great White off our shores ...

iodoherty@independent.ie

- Ian O'Doherty

1 comment:

Drew said...

Isn't Shark's Fin soup a mainly Chinese delicacy? I know that it originated in China, and I'm almost positive it's mainly consumed by China. Kudos to the report though, it was a good read.