Friday, September 25, 2009

I wrote here not too long ago about the horrific slaughter of dolphins that has been occuring and the documentary that has come out about it, The Cove. My mom has a spiritual and sentimental attachment to dolphins that I'm not going to go into here; suffice it to say that the subject feels very close to home for me.

I've just watched a documentary called Sharkwater, and it too was horrific. Did you know that Taiwan pays Costa Rica huge amounts of money for fishermen to illegally fish sharks, cut their fins off, and send them to Taiwan for soups, pills, etc.? Costa Rica is a country that makes a lot of money off of ecotourism, and shark fishing is technically illegal, yet hundreds of thousands of sharks die there in the waters around Cocos every year. Did you also know that, as a result of intense pressure from fishermen, Galapagos allowed longline fishing of sharks for a time? It has since become illegal again, but for fuck's sakes, Galapagos! It's a place that's known for being home to some of the most rare and interesting animals on earth, and one of the biggest threats in Galapagos now is illegal shark fishing (The most pressing threat to the Marine Reserve comes from local, mainland and foreign fishing targeting marine life illegally within the Reserve, such as sharks (hammerheads and other species) for their fins, and the harvest of sea cucumbers out of season.)

Have you ever watched fishermen catch sharks and "obtain" the fins? They use long lines, miles and miles long, with lots of hooks attached all along the line. When they haul the sharks onto the boats, sometimes they're already dead, but sometimes they're still alive. They slice off all the fins including the tail (even with the live ones) and toss the body back into the ocean. Fishing in this manner means that they catch all sorts of things, sailfish and other species that they aren't looking for, and all different kinds of sharks including hammerheads and tiger sharks and even whale sharks, a species that has no teeth and filter feeds, eating things like algae and krill.

We humans get the majority of our oxygen (that we need to survive) from the ocean. This shark fishing is rapidly killing off the animal that is at the top of the food chain in the ocean, and no one knows how badly this will upset ocean ecology, marine life as a whole when there are no more (or just drastically less) sharks. Sharks are the oldest living animal on this planet, older than dinosaurs, and they've survived and thrived for this long in nature, until now we're killing them off, obliterating them.

The man who made the documentary Sharkwater, Rob Stewart, talks about how he's always been drawn to sharks, how watching them die is like watching his family die. His intense concern for sharks reminds me a lot of my mother's connection with dolphins.

I realize that there are terrible things happening all over the world, that there are fifty million different causes to be concerned about, but I think the first step to change is to talk about these problems, to get the word out. In the film Sharkwater it is said that to make change, you don't need everyone in the world to fight for change, you really only need a few people who are really passionate about it. So I'm just trying to help get the word out.

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