Wednesday, August 13, 2014

In the Shark's Eye

The first catch and release shark tournament in Montauk, NY last year was a great success. No sharks killed, people happy, prizes awarded, and a number of big sharks tagged and named by schoolkids.

I asked one of the organizers how the 2nd annual Shark's Eye Tournament went this year. He was less enthusiastic. I could almost feel the deflation and helpless anger coming through the email. Many of the sharks caught, released, and tagged last year had been killed, finned by fishermen.

"Of the 4 fitted with satellite-tags last year, the first, Princess, stopped signaling a few months after it was tagged, while the last stopped pinging in June 17. It was out in the Hudson Canyon. It had traveled 11,000 miles. Named April, by the angler Joe Gaviola, after two April’s, one important to him and one important to the event, it either perished, has remained submerged (the tags only transmit when they break the surface), or the battery died. We don’t know.

What we do know is this. Our mako shark Rizzilient was caught and killed by a Portuguese long-liner in the middle of the Atlantic last winter.  And the blue shark Beamer, named by the Montauk School 6th grade class, was caught 3 times by commercial fishermen after last year’s tournament — once off Portland, Maine, once off Norfolk, Virginia (US commercial fishermen immediately released the shark), and finally on a 60-mile fishing line off Costa Rica.

Beamer had traveled 9000 miles. Not edible, the fins on this 200 lb. fish were removed for the Asian market,"  Rav Friedel of Montauk wrote in an email.

They were tracked thousands of miles only to be pulled from the water and all their fins sliced off for someone's -- most likely in Asia -- shark fin soup. It takes about a minute to do it. Inglorious to the point of criminal.

A magnificent fish that lives on the top of the food web and travels great distances, and a species that has survived hundreds of millions of years placed on the brink by mindless human consumption. Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year this way.

Although these handful caught and named and released off beautiful Montauk were closer to my heart -- I wanted them to survive -- I mourn less for one fish and more for a whole planet at the will of a species unaccustomed to thinking about anything but itself.  I'm talking about us. Humans. We create beauty, sure, but often we destroy it.

Many thanks to all the people that worked hard to make the Shark's Eye Tournament happen including Carl Darenberg and Rav Friedel, and to sponsors Dan's Papers, Guy Harvey Foundation, and LandShark.