While many within the research blogging community have completely exonerated Dr.Michael Domeier and Chris Fischer for the current condition of Junior, a shark with 2.6 pounds of rusting hook left in his esophagus, ABC News just completed an investigation of the events that most likely lead to this animals current condition.
While the exoneration has proposed that a shark attack, not a rusting hook, is responsible for the condition of this animal we are not buying it. We are also not buying into the notion that just because this animal is "still tracking" means this effort was a success. The animals current condition is grave, this is not the same once robust shark, and the debate about it's condition and ultimate responsibility needs to be addressed clearly and without any further internecine agendas by ridiculous bit players in California.
What is not up for debate is the half-assed attempt by one or more within the shark research community to discredit Dr. Domeier for the wound on the side of this animals face. It was a sorry side show to the animals overall diminished condition and frankly a disservice to a protected species within a national marine sanctuary where new prohibitive regulations keep all persons 164 feet away from white sharks at all times.
The ABC News investigation used clips from the show as Junior was caught and details the 1.2 hours this animal spent in the care of a team of self-styled shark tagging experts who, by all accounts, were learning as they went along, reacting to an unfolding series of cascading disasters with "televised precision".
Watch Chris Fischer the owner of Fischer Productions and one of the shows crew members, as he realizes that they are in the middle of a disaster with cameras running celebrate the eye of the hook coming free from Junior after heavy duty bolt cutters are pushed through the gills, yelling "Super Sweet!".
Super Sweet? This animal is being left with a huge foreign body inside it's throat, and yet the crew seems to think this is cause for celebration, it was anything but. The shows cast members also renamed the shark to "Lucky", a purely fictionalized attempt at audience redirect.
Moments like these are the reason why this brand of research, using film crews for science, should not be allowed back at the Farallones. It is also the reason why Sanctuary Manager Maria Brown who refused to be interviewed by ABC for this piece, should be fired from her post and replaced by a manager who is less star struck, and more interested in long term non invasive work with a protected species.
Maria's handling and media appearances over this event have been poor at best, at worst actionable by NOAA.
It shatters the imagination that this is the same Maria Brown who shepherded in the new rules and regulations that keep visitors to sanctuary waters 164 feet away from white sharks. Yet within months of those new rules granted this well heeled, for profit film crew, who also had thousands of dollars in promotional product placement agreements with companies like Costa Sunglasses, unprecedented access to the these same animals with baited hooks.
This month Maria Brown continues to consider a return by Dr.Domeier's team to hook 11 more sharks within Sanctuary waters, playing politics once again, when the debate over the condition of Junior has not even been discussed with any serious thought and more than a healthy dose of career saving cover your ass.