Sharks 4. Humans 165,000,000.
July 31, 2007 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Rethink. The. Shark. [YouTube] The Save Our Seas Foundation [small Flash], a Swiss-based non-profit, joins the growing ranks of a world-wide movement to undo the damage caused by popular reports and gross misrepresentation by Hollywood of sharks as human-savoring sea monsters/killing machines. The fact of the matter is that the opposite is true: Current estimates give between 65 million to 165 million sharks being killed worldwide annually via unregulated catch - including 38 million to 70 million [PDF] for their fin alone, with untold numbers of butchered and bleeding-to-death sharks being cast back into the oceans to die slow and gruesome deaths. [more inside]
posted by humannaire (38 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Mod note: manual more-insidery

( is facing an onslaught of negative publicity and developing boycott for their complicity in this practice by the Chinese e-commerce company's allowing the online sale of gross shark fins and shark products.) Partially because of the shark's ill-gained status as a blood-thirsty killer, records of which and how many of each shark species are taken annually internationally are proving to be unrealistic. How many species are endangered? For certain are the basking shark, the whale shark, and the infamous great white shark. Proponents for rethinking the shark include Jacque Cousteau's first-born Jean-Michael Cousteau (shown here hitching a ride with a great white) and 24-year old underwater photographer Rob Stewart [Flash; pop-up], whose internationally-acclaimed film documentary, Sharkwater, is bringing the practice of shark-finning to light. What can you do? Well, in addition to protesting shark tournaments, and adopting a shark [loud] [1], [2], [3], the first step may be learning about how to Bite Back.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:34 PM on July 31, 2007

a Swiss-based non-profit

Yeah, sure, the Swiss don't have any problems with sharks...
posted by Meatbomb at 10:50 PM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

I for one would be willing to (and have) give up eating the fins of sharks... (but they are so... so ... mouthfeelful goodness; a good sharksfin soup has more to do with having a good base/broth; the quality of the sharksfin is more a mouthfeel than a flavour - although there's a world of difference between a fin from a 25 year old shark compared to a 3 year old shark).

Perhaps it would be a fruitful avenuie to pursue educating propagandizing young Asian people against the consumption of sharskfin?

(actual shark flesh - the rest of the animal... is non-pleasant; rubbery, oddly fatty, and tasteless.)
posted by porpoise at 11:10 PM on July 31, 2007

I was about to ask what people use shark fins for - but porpoise answered that. I've had Mako shark before and it was probably the most delicious seafood I've ever had. Although, admittedly, it was one of the first times I ever felt guilty about eating an animal (the other was veal. but that doesn't taste so good)

I'm excited to know I can adopt a shark, especially as a gift. I love sharks, and Shark Week on Discovery is amazing. So, this allows me to share that love AND help the cause.

Thanx for this.
posted by revmitcz at 11:19 PM on July 31, 2007

But whatever shall people use to sooth their inflamed hemorrhoids if shark liver oil was not available for use in their suppositories?
posted by mstefan at 11:27 PM on July 31, 2007

Booooring. Sharks have jumped themselves.
posted by Falconetti at 11:29 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hrm... adopting a shark. I could do anything. No one would try to stop me. I'd just kill them with my shark. Today is the first day of the rest of my motherfucking shark owning life! You're all gonna die, suckers!
posted by stavrogin at 12:12 AM on August 1, 2007

When I was about nine or ten years old, I personally witnessed private billfish/sport fishers hook, land, shoot and then gut a pregnant blue (dog) shark (link 1 link 2) on the transom and dump it overboard. It is or was a fairly common practice among sportfishers, to eliminate competition for tuna and billfish/swordfish.

We were off the north point of Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California. I'd insisted on going swimming off the boat. I shouldn't have. I remember the water was really clear, and I could see into the murky depths below me for what seemed like hundreds of feet, and I thought I could see large, looming shapes in the darkness moving around through the weird, undulating sun-beams glittering in the water, which really freaked me out. To the point I panicked a bit and very nearly forgot how to swim.

I exited the water to find out that my Dad's friends, the sportfishers, were chumming off the other side of the boat with fresh fish guts and blood from the barracuda and mackerel we'd caught earlier. I distinctly remember my heart skipping a bunch of beats and feeling like I was going to pass out when I saw this. It's one of the only times in my life I've been truly and profoundly terrified - like I wanted to scream incoherently or tear out my hair or something, just really freak the fuck out. (The only other moments that even come close have involved rattlesnakes or bears.)

They hooked the shark just moments after all this. It took them a while to land it, maybe 30-45 minutes, so I didn't know it was a shark until we saw it break water off the stern, long tail and fins thrashing.

I was really, really disturbed by the whole scene, and forgot about being freaked out about the sharks and quickly became sad for the shark.

For one - the shark was beautiful - slender, torpedo-like, about 6-7 feet long. Even after it had been shot and cut open, it was still trying to breath. The skin was pearlescent blue-indigo-gray, like a hand-lacquered ultraluxury sports car. The texture like the finest wet-grit sand paper - smoother, even, an impossible mix between silk and sand. There were egg-sacs, each with a dark shadow of an embryonic little shark-shape in it. I knew that sharks were millions of years old, that they were nearly living dinosaurs.

porpoise wrote (eponysterically!?): (actual shark flesh - the rest of the animal... is non-pleasant; rubbery, oddly fatty, and tasteless.)

For two - I really, really wanted to eat it, and was disturbed by the hideous waste. I had already been introduced to shark steaks as a kid - maki/thresher in particular, and I found them delicious. This was before the sushi craze, before anyone would even eat shark, so it was cheap good food for a slacker surfer dad to feed his growing kids. A good shark steak rivals tuna - like a mix between pork and beef, but not stringy or gritty like pork or lamb. Falls apart like tuna or salmon. Best lightly grilled on a low-to-medium heat hibachi with some lemon juice.

But they said it was unfit to eat - that the blue shark eliminated urea within it's own flesh, making it unsavory or toxic to humans. I'm still not sure if I believe them.
posted by loquacious at 1:11 AM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I find shark to be quite tasty as well. As with even tuna there have been concerns about mercury levels - but it's not something you eat everyday.

Shark meat has always been popular in Australia (sold as flake) - especially for kids because it doesn't have pesky bones.

I don't have a story as terrifying as loquacious does - but I grew up near the beach in Adelaide, South Australia, where a day at the beach often involves hearing a shark siren and dashing out of the water.
posted by gomichild at 1:31 AM on August 1, 2007

I have a figure ground problem with the discovery channel these days. I can't help but hear "Shark Weak" every time they trot out the same old documentaries.
posted by srboisvert at 1:36 AM on August 1, 2007

The bad rap sharks have these days is partly because of Jaws, and more recently indeed Discovery Channel.

As a diver I happen to know a bit more about sharks than the average Discovery Viewer, so I recognize how warped their view of sharks is, and it makes me wonder about their accuracy on subjects I do not know about. Thanks to Shark Week, I have no other option that to view all their work with a sufficient quantity of grains of salt. And yes, asavage, that unfortunately includes your work as well.
posted by DreamerFi at 1:54 AM on August 1, 2007

I worked on a long-line fishing boat off the Long Island coast (around the "Canyon" for any one who knows). We caught Bigeye and Bluefin tuna, Swordfish and lots of Blue Shark. The fishermen hated the sharks because they frequently ate the tuna on our line before we could pull them in. So whenever we caught a shark this one fellow would cut its fins off and then throw them back. We kept the fins in a net that we hauled behind the boat (I think because they smelled really bad). There was so much waste on that boat, but killing the sharks was the worst of it.
posted by recurve at 2:24 AM on August 1, 2007

Sand kills more than sharks.

I used to love a thresher shark steak almost as much as swordfish. Sadly, I can't eat either anymore because of overfishing and ecological concerns..
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:47 AM on August 1, 2007

More people are bitten by people in the NY metro area than sharks globally per year.

I think we know what we have to do.
posted by asok at 3:41 AM on August 1, 2007

I wish sharks ate more people. More shark fishers, anyway. (Or maybe the sharks should just bite their hands off and throw the rest of them back in the boats.)
posted by pracowity at 4:26 AM on August 1, 2007

loquacious, let me get this straight; you were ten years old, swimming off a boat in known shark territory, and your father and his friends were chucking blood and guts over the other side?!
posted by gene_machine at 5:13 AM on August 1, 2007

They eat seals, and seals are cute, so that makes them villains.
posted by smackfu at 6:22 AM on August 1, 2007

They eat seals, and seals are cute, so that makes them villains.

Seals aren't cute. They're mf-ing scary.

I can't even watch that video because of the double-secret-probation warning, so someone else who's not a fraidy cat can tell us how un-cute the murderous bull elephant in Sonoma is.

It tried to eat a pit bull, ferchrissake.

posted by pineapple at 6:34 AM on August 1, 2007

True story: Basketball star Yao Ming publicly renounced shark fin soup, despite it being one of his favorite foods, in the interests of conservation. The story was reported under the headline...

Wait for it...

posted by Faint of Butt at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2007

His being nicknamed "Nibbles" kind of undermines you're "seals aren't cute" argument. Even the nicknames are cute!
posted by kirkaracha at 6:48 AM on August 1, 2007

Thus the overpopulation of rays and skates which are the usual food for sharks.
posted by destro at 6:53 AM on August 1, 2007

posted by gomichild at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2007

Does anyone know if Speilberg has made any contributions to support organizations like Save the Seas, or made any effort himself to dismantle the myth that his movie created? I've always felt that he has some responsibility, and he's obviously a busy person, but I think he could help raise awareness at least.
posted by asfuller at 8:54 AM on August 1, 2007

I don't know about Speilberg, but Peter Benchley (who wrote the book) actually spent much of the latter part of his life working at marine conservation efforts, including specifically shark-awareness and -education and -protection work. He died early last year. I wrote an (extremely brief) song about it.
posted by cortex at 9:05 AM on August 1, 2007

The reason I posted this is because sharks are the lion or tiger of the sea. People killed lions and tigers for the same reason that people kill sharks today: Sport, fear, food, thrills, and for no good reason whatsoever.

Shark fin soup is an atrocity. "Mouthfeel," porpoise? Who are you, Caligula? 38-70 million sharks are slaughtered annually for your "mouthfeel." And the sharks still-living bodies are unceremoniously dumped back into ocean. The amount of waste and environmental impact/toll that this has on our oceans is so extraordinary it is best decribed as inestimable. "Mouthfeel"? How's extinction feel in your mouth? What else is on the menu? I hear whale shark is yummy? How about some dolphin or manatee? Both are reputed to be tasty!

[Oooh, that ticked me off. You would think oceans would be important to someone who chose the name porpoise. Jeez.]

Because I am an marine ecologist in Florida National Marine Wildlife Refuge off of Key West in the Florida Keys - practically the Caribbean - I get to swim with sharks and take people who have been taught since birth to be terrified of sharks swimming with sharks just about every day. And guess what? No attacks. No injuries. Nada. Why? Because sharks are uninterested in human beings.

But the Discovery Channel, which as DreamerFi points out, creates hysteria with misinformation about sharks. People get here after watching year after year of Shark Week dreaming that the sharks are looking specifically for them! Visitors here have nightmares about sharks attacking them. Yet less than ten people died from shark-related injuries last year. More people were killed by dogs last year than were killed by sharks in the past one hundred years! Yet you don't see the majority of people losing their minds every time a dog shows up on their street.

My hope is that MeFites take an active interest in this calamity - the unfolding extinction of sharks being allowed because of an entertainment-driven bias against this amazing creature - not to hear how lovely shameless cruelty and destruction feels on one's tongue.

Did you know that sharks posses a remarkable immunity to cancer? But seeing as over half of the sharks killed are not even used for any type of food - spoils of tuna and swordfish long-lining (the practice of putting out upwards of 50 miles of baited hooks) - just dumped into the ocean, we may only have a while to find out why or if it matters to us.

No live sharks. No live ocean.
posted by humannaire at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

Vegetarianism, people. Too many humans, eating everything that moves. Yeah, flesh tastes nice. So what.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2007

I'll stick to tuna. That's ok to kill, right?
posted by smackfu at 12:52 PM on August 1, 2007

Jesus, humannaire, get off your high horse, porposie already said he no longer eats shark fin soup. Did you skip over that part to just get to your frothing rant?
posted by Snyder at 1:15 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Timely, as according to today's headline in another great tabloid, Shark Mania is currently gripping Britain.

Yup, it's definitely August.
posted by Helga-woo at 2:32 PM on August 1, 2007

After reading Humannaire's comment, I'm not longer surprised at the "9th worst job in science" according to 'Popular Science'.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:37 PM on August 1, 2007

snyder, along with porpoise's sensualist, lick-your-finger's, yum yum endorsement for what an excellent culinary experience sharkfin soup is (when in fact I have only heard and learned the contrary from hundreds if not thousands of individuals), yes, yes, I did notice that porpoise had given up eating sharkfin soup.

In fact, to paraphrase porpoise, my noticing it reminded me of how terrible war and killing is (but those...those... pheromonefully goodness; a good murdering carnage has more to do with the group being massacred than it does the individual victim - although there is a world of difference between crushing the skull of a 25 year old and a 3 year old.)

Or did I miss something?

(BTW, actual killing - wholesale non-pleasant; rubbery, oddly fatty, and tasteless.)
posted by humannaire at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2007

Well, you did miss the part where he was describing the pleasure of eating a meal without actually stumping for the continued slaughter of sharks to make that meal available. It's pretty uncharitable to condemn someone for not having their palette annihilated by outrage. Do you believe that shark fin soup is in fact inherently not tasty (an odd notion, given that people go to such trouble to get it), or do you just not approve of people being honest about their tastebuds when the situation is ethically complicated?
posted by cortex at 6:15 PM on August 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do you believe that shark fin soup is in fact inherently not tasty

That is affirmative. Anthony Bourdain stated that "sharkfin is the most disgusting thing he has ever tasted." This coming from a person who eats cobra hearts and iguanas. He might know.

...or do you just not approve of people being honest about their tastebuds when the situation is ethically complicated?

Ouch. Well, now that you put it that way.

Sorry, porpoise. What I like and prefer is genuine, honest rapport. I was grieved that dolphins, seals and the cute animals get all the love around here, and sharks get kinda sorta'd not so much'd when they are like so cool.
posted by humannaire at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2007

Humannaire, I respect and admire sharks... the farther away the better though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:46 PM on August 1, 2007

Every year, more people are killed by chairs than sharks. Saw a hilarious video about that, at the aquarium in Cape Town. (and tried to find a link for it, to share, but no joy).

I just took up diving, and I'm told sharks aren't much of a worry, except when you're on the surface. So far, I haven't encountered any. That could change! They say, here, that the tiger shark is a bit worrisome. As for the rays and skates: What's the problem with those? I find them especially beautiful, and the rays enjoy playing in my bubbles (it srcatches some itch they have, I'm told).
posted by Goofyy at 3:58 AM on August 2, 2007

The easy substitute for shark's fin in soup is Shark's Fin Melon which has the same mouth feel.
posted by asok at 5:29 AM on August 2, 2007

Fellow scuba diver here. We see them all the time off the coast. Even knowing they aren’t interested in eating humans, I still get a bit of a rush every time I have one hovering about. They are LARGE compared to other sea creatures, and they are predators. To have one silently come up behind you when you’re focused on the minutiae in front of you will cause most people’s air consumption to increase a wee bit… But, there’s nothing so cool as to watch them just hanging out above a wreck, waiting to find a tasty item on their food chain that needs to be consumed. And, thankfully, they don’t seem to like neoprene wetsuits.

Tis a shame what we see under the water. Coral bleaching, net dragging. So many pieces of trash. So much downstream pollution. I always come back up with a bag full of trash from every dive. Is it partly because the land-based population doesn’t personally see and respect what’s down there that we disrespect it? Perhaps that’s the case with many of the things we turn a blind-eye towards… go figure.
posted by mightshould at 6:17 AM on August 2, 2007

Sharks. I wish people cared more - they are fan-frickin-tastic.
posted by agregoli at 6:57 AM on August 2, 2007

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