OP-ED

Catch and release, don’t kill
Fri, 07/08/2022 - 4:45pm
Category: 

To the Editor,
I am the owner of The Spicy Shark in Portsmouth, N.H., and a concerned New England neighbor. The Block Island Giant Shark Tournament takes place again this year from July 14 to 16, and I hope that the citizens of Block Island will stop supporting the unnecessary death of more threatened sharks. If it continues, it would be beneficial if replaced by catch and release. 77 percent of oceanic sharks are now threatened with extinction. By conservative estimate, over 100 million sharks are lost by human action every year; over 250,000 per day. The primary offenders are the trade of shark fins (for shark fin soup), bycatch, and the demand for squalene for beauty products (shark liver is a cheap source).
Ending shark tournaments, or switching to catch and release, is a simple solution to prevent exacerbating an already dire predicament. The most common sharks killed in New England tournaments are makos, threshers, porbeagles, and blues. Makos, threshers, and porbeagles are listed under CITES as Endangered species, and blues are listed as Near Threatened.
Four false justifications are often given to keep shark tournaments in place.
“We don’t waste the sharks, we eat them or they’re donated to homeless shelters.”
First, most sharks are unfit for human consumption due to the accumulated toxins. The extremely high levels of mercury are harmful to humans, ranging from birth defects to erectile dysfunction. Secondly, it’s illegal to transfer sharks to a facility as food without the proper meat transfer license. Thirdly, the sharks are often left in the sun rotting, and thrown out in dumpsters in the back. Millions of years of evolution destroyed overnight.
“We help with conservation/science.”
Just because a fisherman records the animals they catch doesn’t necessarily mean that has any value for conservation. Researchers and/or NOAA showing up to collect data doesn’t mean they needed that data. They could get the same data (size, sex, species) through a catch and release tournament.
“There are too many sharks, we are culling the herd.”
Data from across the world, including one of the premier shark researchers in the USA, Dr. Neil Hammerschlag of University of Miami, show shark populations having decreased upwards of 90 percent. In fact, NOAA just announced last week a ban on killing any mako shark, commercially or recreationally, effective July 5, 2022, due to their dwindling populations.
“We need to kill sharks because they are eating our food.”
Sharks don’t seek out healthy fish because it takes too much energy. They go after the sick and dead, which keeps our oceans healthy, and helps prevent negative occurrences like algae bloom. They are not competing for the fish that our fishermen are seeking.
Sharks have been on this planet long before humans; they predate dinosaurs and survived that mass extinction. Humans are already on pace to create a mass extinction for sharks. Let’s give this incredible species the respect they deserve, they are worth far more to humanity alive than dead.
The USA once was a whaling country. We don’t kill whales anymore, and the thought of it repulses the average American. Whales are better off for it, as is humanity. It’s time to change our perception of sharks. My position is not anti-fishing or anti-fisherman. The fishermen of New England did not cause this problem, but they can help be a part of the solution. Ending Shark Kill Tournaments, or switching to catch and release, is an easy way to make local impact for a species on the brink of extinction due to humans. To
kill endangered shark species purely for money and trophies should permanently be a thing of the past.
Martha’s Vineyard ended its tournament in 2014, and the North Atlantic Monster Shark Tournament in Fairhaven, Mass. ended last year. I hope you agree that the right decision is to end the Block Island Monster Shark Kill Tournament.
“We are not saving sharks, we are saving the ocean. And when you save the ocean, you save mankind.” – Clayton Hee, Hawaii State Senator
Sincerely,
Gabe DiSaverio
Portsmouth, N.H