Monday, April 15, 2013

The Cretin's Guide to Commercially Killing Sharks

Don't get me wrong I am all for shark research. Having personally sponsored at least one ground breaking shark project for a number of years at Isla Guadalupe anyone who knows me knows I love fresh shark data.

But when does widely available shark data become a road map for commercial shark harvest?

In the hands of commercial fishermen who read english and who have access to basic Internet, it would seem the last secrets of many sought after shark species are now available to just about anyone.

Case in point my email box was hit with this recent report from Live Science that read Sharks Dive Deep Under Full Moon:

"Over the course of nearly three years, researchers from Australia observed 39 mostly female grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) living near coral reefs in Palau, Micronesia, east of the Philippines. In the winter, the sharks stayed closer to the surface, at an average depth of 115 feet (35 meters), where water was consistently warmer, the team found. Meanwhile, the sharks plunged deeper in when seasonal temperatures started rising in the spring, averaging depths of 200 feet (60 meters)."

Wow, really?

Alright, so if I am a shark fishing boat, and I happen to be in and around coral reefs in Palau, Micronesia, and east of the Philippines (not north, south or west) all I have to do is set my hooks to 115 feet and clean house?

Oh, and when water temps rise drop them to 200?

Conservationists who have never worked a long line vessel (I have) have no idea that data like this often means the difference between a full hold and nothing at all. I might even posit the fact that some sets occasionally come back empty are the sole reason why some shark species have remained protected in certain high traffic areas.

Hooks were set too shallow or too deep and sharks survived.

Fact is fishermen do not have the financial incentive to reset and reset and reset on areas based on hunches that key note species might be available to them. They go with what they know, set and hope for the best.

Once though a species is "dialed in" you know where, when, and how to harvest them, there's nothing saving these critters from total annihilation. Word gets around quickly in the fishing community and data like this is a road map...treasure map is more to the point.

So it remains an open question, is the wholesale release of shark data good or bad for shark species?

I am 45 years old, I have lead an extraordinary life and seen far too much of humanity to believe for one instant that a commercial fishing boat would "do the right thing" and not capitalize on any specific data that gave them the back door to a key note species castle.

Sadly, life is not as altruistic as this, and it is high time this issue was addressed by the larger shark research community. Setting up firewalls with data would be an easy thing to do. The only thing missing in this equation is the desire and leadership.

Note: I have suspicion these sites may or may not be located in and around Shark Sanctuaries. Da Shark will be pointing that out shortly. I also have a dim view on sanctuaries that do not also feature robust enforcement. That debate will play out over the next decade. Irregardless, specific depth, time and location data for target sharks just makes the desire to run a sanctuary even more enticing when you know your full hold is just 115 feet away.


Patric Douglas
Shark Diver
Currently enjoying semi-retirement

About Shark Diver. As a global leader in commercial shark diving and conservation initiatives Shark Diver has spent the past decade engaged for sharks around the world. Our blog highlights all aspects of both of these dynamic and shifting worlds. You can reach us directly at
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