Monday, November 16, 2009

Sympathy For the Devil?

The number one rule of shark conservation science should be "do no harm."

The second rule should be "and that includes reality television shows in the name of science."

I am not sure when conservationists and researchers decided to join reality television shows, but now it has happened little good has come of it.

Case in point.

As blow back for a seriously mishandled shark tagging effort at the Farallone islands continues to cause upset and anger within the shark community here in the Bay Area, a simply titanic media wave complete with PR agencies and live interviews on all major news networks pushes what is touted to be a 10 week reality television series about hooking great white sharks for science.

The show even has an actor from L.A in a supporting role.

Is this science?

Perhaps it is, and then again perhaps it is a for profit production masquerading as science.

The conflict of interest here is the reality television crew are also the crew members who hook the sharks, and fund the tagging research. A new and some say chilling departure from standard research models unencumbered by the addition of 24/7 embedded film crews.

The fact remains that this team made a complete hash of a recent tagged shark, so bad in fact that industrial bolt cutters had to be employed to cut a hook (a copy now proudly displayed on television junkets) through the sharks gills to remove only a fraction of it from the animal. The rest was left embedded inside the shark..

The team, film crew, and PR machine all claim this animal is "still alive and well," few if any within the shark community believe them. Tonight the first reality episode airs to a primed and waiting public. In the end it will be up to them to decide if hooking white sharks for science is a reality television show they want to follow or not.

As for the magnificent shark that tonight either lies dead at the bottom of the ocean or continues to live with 60% of "the largest hook ever made" still embedded in its throat, the answer to that basic question is self evident.

We would like to officially demand that Fischer Productions and Dr. Michael Domeier take the time, about as much as they have spent promoting their reality television production, to provide "proof of life" for this shark and long term "independent monitoring" of the animal.

It is the least they could do, and it is the right thing to do.

Patric Douglas CEO

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