Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reeling in Great Whites

One would think that all Shark researchers love the Sharks they study.

Well, think again.
Marine CSI researcher Dr. Michael Domeier goes fishing for endangered Great Whites. He hooks them, drags them aboard and then uses a drill to attach satellite tags to their dorsal fin. The following was apparently filmed in Guadalupe for a Nat Geo documentary and now, Domeier is planning to do the same in the Farallones, equally a marine preserve, once again documented by the inevitable film crew.
Check it out, it's a brutal procedure.

Some of the blue bloggers, namely The Dorsal Fin and RTSea have picked up the story and voiced their concerns, citing the "stress" this procedure could inflict upon the animals. Others seem to be more on the fence.

Me, I'm simply appalled and outraged.
Great Whites can be easily lured next to boats and hundreds of them have been successfully tagged using a pole spear - and yes, one can also easily take DNA samples and with a little bit of ingenuity, blood samples as well. Granted, some of the tags costing thousands of bucks will detach themselves and be lost, but -and this is what counts!- the animals are neither "stressed" not otherwise negatively impacted.

Here, the Shark is hooked and then left to fight a couple of buoys until it is completely exhausted, then dragged onto a hard platform where its own body weight can easily crush its internal organs and potentially kill any unborn fetuses, then completely removed from the water and left to lay semi-comatose and desperately fighting asphyxiation for a good 20 minutes whilst somebody uses a drill and other implements to make holes in its body. You can check it all out in this, I believe shocking image gallery.
It thus comes as no surprise that some specialists assert that some of the Sharks are likely to die as a direct consequence of this treatment.

How about if anybody did the very same thing to a Dolphin, notabene an animal that is not highly endangered and that can breathe outside of the water?
Yes, no catching with nets, none of those purpose-made, body-hugging cradles preventing the animal from hurting itself (check out the fresh cuts on the Shark's caudal fin and the lack of chafing gear on the rope), no padded water tanks supporting the body weight, no exquisite care administered to the animal in order to prevent dehydration of its sensitive skin - just the same nasty fishing hooks, the same brutal and heartless treatment and a comatose Dolphin left to fight for its life on a hard naked wooden platform whilst somebody drills holes into its body?
Still think that this is maybe OK?

I've said it before: this is not the seventies.
Since then, the public's sensibilities and the rules about what is acceptable in science have thankfully changed- and this is just not acceptable.
Do I really need to spell out that the "objects of research" are really not objects and must be treated ethically? Does Dr. Domeier really need to be reminded that Sharks, and GW in particular are particularly vulnerable and that hurting them and endangering their life is just not on?

Why MCSI has chosen to abandon its own successful, tried-and-tested non-invasive techniques and to resort to such brutal and heartless manhandling will always leave me baffled. I understand that the tags may be some novel gizmo requiring this kind of deployment - but then, the gizmo is faulty and needs to be re-designed or the protocols, to be drastically changed. Always keep in mind that nothing of this is either necessary, or urgent: not for the advancement of scientific knowledge and especially not for the survival of the species!

Full stop.
No data set is worth torturing animals in this brutal and heartless fashion!

Guys, Please: show the Love and the Respect!

PS Underwater Thrills have weighed in on this and further emphasized the need for controlling the associated media output. That's a valid, although I believe, secondary point. Those "fun" images of "cool" guys posing next to the comatose animal are certainly highly inappropriate.

We'll be keeping an eye out - for the Nat Geo program but above all, for reports of any tags having been "lost" (as in Sharks having perished) in the research paper.


Anonymous said...

I know someone on the shoot. Yes the shark may have died, but Chris said that when you do research things like that happen. They know now that a smaller FULL circle hook would have worked better and said they have changed the hook shape so they do not kill another one.

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!