Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Shark Diving AND Shark Fishing? Probably not!

Hooked Tiger Shark - from the Sharkbite Charters' Facebook gallery.

This is a difficult one.
~Please help educate these "shark divers." For The Sharks!! >~xo:] x
like a well meaning Shark activist advocates?

The question being, who needs educating.
This is the answer of Karl Callwood to the critics of the Shark fishing video he has posted here. Karl is the Chief of staff, Chief Researcher/Communications Officer/Photographer at Senator Celestino A. White, Sr., from everything I can discern very much the contrary of a brain dead Shark hater.
Please do read it and above all, understand what is being said!

1) The shark swallowed the bait and tackle whole. It could not be humanely released. The LAW actually states that an unreleasable shark MUST BE BOATED. To do otherwise would be inhumane and illegal. Alisa...how do you know that we did not even try? You are looking at edited video from three different cameras. The sequencing in the video is not even the order that actual events took place. The video is even longer than the actual harvesting.

2) Would you all have preferred that the mortally wounded shark be wasted or provide natural, organic food for St. John families?

3) The Tiger Shark is not a protected, endangered or threatened species. The video is NOT about a sport fishing trip. That is a legally operating commercial fisherman with all licenses and permits in place. Just this past week both NOAA and DPNR inspected the operation and passed it with flying colors. The shark in the video was a foot and a half larger than minimum take size. There are also no limits to how many tiger sharks can be boated at one time by a commercial fisherman. Threatened and endangered shark species have such limits.

4) I love sharks as a living animal, I photograph them 5 days a week in the wild, I know more about them than most people, and I WILL eat non-threatened species. Oh, I also photograph and love Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, various snappers, Hinds, cows, chickens, goats, lambs, deer, duck, etc. and eat those as well.

5) We live on a 13 mile long island that is barely two miles at its widest point. Our supply line for commercially processed foods is at a minimum 1270 miles of shipping across the ocean. Do you know how huge the carbon footprint is to ship food to the Virgin Islands? Do you know what freighters leave behind in the water during passage? Do you know how much commercially processed food costs here? (On average three times more than you pay for food on the mainland.) Do you now that imported food comes in packaging, much of it PLASTIC, that then has to be processed as waste on this small island? Do you know that much of the disposed of commercially processed food packaging has to be shipped off island for disposal at a high carbon footprint and national taxpayer cost? Fishing that shark was much more environmentally friendly than going to the grocery store to buy dinner.

6) By varying catches among all permitted species using sustainable fishing methods we engage in a much more environmentally sound practice than grocery shopping. Many species have been over fished in the islands (much of it by outside parties raiding our fisheries to sell elsewhere in the world, some done in the past by local fishermen using practices now properly outlawed), however the Tiger Shark is NOT one of the over fished species. It has long been a part of the indigenous diet and is so common that an extensive federal review of our fisheries a little over two years ago saw no need to add restrictions on local commercial fishing of Tiger Sharks.

The arguments everyone presents above are extremely emotional and not based on fact or scientific evidence. Finning has never been a practice of locals and basically the entirety on any catch, shark or otherwise, is utilized. In the states you cut off fish heads. Here we eat them. We cannot afford to waste food like fat America can. Inedible parts of fished creatures wind up as bait or other needed products. We do not export anything from our fisheries. It is all used locally.

There is no way that a main lander, with an easily accessible nutrition supply line, higher standard of living and greater average income can make a comparison to a tiny island 1200 miles at sea. There is not enough arable land for agricultural production of meat product. We rely on a continuous daily train of large freighters loaded with hundreds of 40 foot containers each or we rely on the sea. Or we starve.

A sanctimonious and condescending lecture from a position of 'food luxury' is going to fall on my deaf ears. You all do not know what you are talking about. You truly are not in a position to judge...only to frustrate yourselves.

I love my sharks. I have rescued trapped and injured sharks. I swim with them. I take tourists every weekday to see them and be photographed with them. I also am the first and loudest (as has been occasioned in the past) to publicly and legally jump all over someone engaging in unsustainable hunting or fishing practices. And, of course, I continue to eat my sustainably caught and harvested species...such as Tiger Shark.

You only have your unfounded assumptions and have no scientific basis upon which to change my mind.

I would have to agree - and yes, I'm not anymore so sure!
Tiger Sharks are not acutely threatened. Being aplacental viviparous and contrary to most placental viviparous Carcharhinids that have a two-year breeding cycle, they can reproduce every year and have relatively large litters of up to 100 pups. In fact, many populations of Tiger Sharks are very much on the rebound.
With that in mind the question is, is it OK for people to harvest and eat a Fish if that Fish happens to be a Shark?

Once again, it is a question of sustainability, not ethics.
This is a central theme of this blog - e.g. here and here and here and here.
If the situation in St. John is how Karl describes it, and I have no reason to believe it is not, and if this is happening only sporadically, then harvesting a few Tiger Sharks for food may indeed be both perfectly sustainable and more ecologically sound than the possible alternatives. Then again, Patric's testimony may signify that the stocks in the USVI are just too small for any sustainable harvesting - we just don't know do we.

Do I like it - Hell, no!
Tigers are one of the coolest Sharks and seeing them being killed is terribly sad, especially when this is being publicized in the crude way Karl has chosen to do. Yes I know it's only a fishing video and nobody would have said anything if the Fish were a mere Mahi Mahi or the like - but of course, I love Sharks and it breaks my heart.

In general terms, it is to advocate Shark protection all the way to Shark fishing bans as Shark Defenders suggest. Once again, this cannot happen in a vacuum but must be flanked by all other necessary measures, especially when it comes to emerging economies.

And in this specific case?
From what I can discern, Captain Andy Greaux, a commercial fisherman, is aiming at expanding his Sharkbite Charters into a Shark diving outfit. Shark diving tourism is one of the few proven alternatives to fishing for Sharks and with that in mind, I wish him the very best of success.
But for Working on the scuba gear now. Getting the tanks hydro'd, visualized and filled, having the B.C.'s and regulators and dive computers inspected. Welder still working on the shark cages. to ever become a successful investment, Andy will very likely have to make a choice about what is more important and economically viable for him.

This is the choice.
He can either continue killing those Tigers, or he can showcase them to his clients. Not both.
Doing both will simply not work as apart from the fact that one of his businesses would be depriving the other of its principal attraction and thus assets, the overwhelming majority of divers will simply not book with a dive operator who engages in fishing. No it's absolutely not logical as the same divers will then insist on ordering fresh Fish for dinner - but it is a fact and thus an important economical consideration when setting up his business.
But it's a classical chicken-and-egg conundrum: will Andy have to stop killing Sharks in order to attract Shark divers, or will the Shark divers convince him to stop killing Sharks.

My gut?
This is going to be an economical decision.
The guy is merely trying to make a living and has obviously zero time or patience for "ethical" and as the thread progresses, increasingly strident and moronic lecturing - nor would I in his place!
This is not the proper way to effect change and to save Sharks!

We, too, have a choice.
We can either continue to berate him in public and continue to trigger the reactions we have triggered. Or, we may consider giving him our business and hope that the income and also, some private conversations once we are there and can talk face-to-face may help sway his mind in favor of keeping those Sharks alive.
That is exactly how we were able to reform (as opposed to browbeat) our local fishermen here in Fiji, by providing for sources of alternative income!

Or as Karl says
Boycott tourism thus leaving fishing as the only means by which natives can afford to feed themselves. Boycott Sharkbite Charters forcing Andy to fish even more for a living. Ya gotta love the logic. :)

Think about it.

PS All videos and threads have been removed.
The question being, did this exercise in outrage and abuse (interesting thread here) save one single Shark in the USVI.


the One called "Bitey"... said...

Interesting debate here. All I can add at this point (and at this hour of the night) is: making a choice based on economics is a slippery slope. It actually usually acts as a get-out-of-jail-free-card to do whatever you want and shield yourself from criticism, not as a genuine "sustainable" need.
Am I saying what you might think I'm saying? Yes, I am, actually - if human economic concerns are so grossly encroaching natural concerns (maybe they are here, maybe they're not, I'm open to it), then the problem is the human entrenchment, and the human population. Sorry, but this is itself an economic fact, and every argument to the contrary that I've ever heard is merely a thinly disguised excuse for millennia of entrenched belief in anthropocentrism, and millennia of small-scale societies being able to use resources at a sustainable rate. (Hint: human encroachment is far too deep and expansive now to sustain the rate of resource depletion to which we've been subconsciously accustomed.)
"Good" or "bad" is up to debate by ethicists, these are just the facts.

the One called "Bitey"... said...

(I've written a slightly longer note, posted at facebook, but the gist is the same.)

On the problem being the human entrenchment: I'm not trying to villify the locals here, not at all - the problem is likely more directed at surrounding industrial society(ies) forcing local societies to live off of scraps (which I do believe is "bad"), but the overall idea remains....

DaShark said...

Totally agree Terry, see http://fijisharkdiving.blogspot.com/2011/05/shark-conservation-posters-or-condoms.html

BUT, we're looking for a possible solution to a specific problem here - right?
So, assuming that doing so is "bad", what could convince Andy to stop fishing for Tiger Sharks.

Judgmental abuse?
I don't think so.

The Big Gorilla?
7bn people now that are anticipated to become 9bn by 2020.
Great isn't it.

Vic said...

Suggesting you NEED to use the land for ANIMAL production loses me. How many people could live off the land a cow takes to fatten up? Is meat your only source of protein? Have you ever thought about adjusting your diet rather than go around killing animals inhumanely (try catching them with your hands and teeth since you seem to believe you have the human hunter gene being dominant (jk) instead of using tools and weapons. NEED before GREED.
You could find ways to do things better, you choose not to. Says a lot about the human condition of sloth.

Adam said...

This debate is both timely and necessary. Carl's argument is both erudite and reasoned, but it is erroneous and seeks to divert attention from the nub of the matter. Indeed he has even drawn you off to relate the issue here with that of the situation in Fiji.

The fishermen taking sharks for food in Fiji are subsistence fishermen who rely on their ability to catch shark for food. I would argue that this is not the case with the group in USVI. Inviting your friends round to try some shark is a far cry from having to eat it to survive. The money spent on equipment used to film and catch the shark in the film would feed a subsistence family for a long time! These are people who have sufficient money to buy diving gear (and dive for enjoyment rather than in order to earn money), boats and expensive underwater imaging equipment. They have jobs and presumably receive payment for these. This is a far cry from subsistence.

Carl raises important points about packaging and transport costs of food, and these are hard to ignore. However, this is not an issue that relates to this particular instance. The catching and filming of this animal is quite obviously a source of enjoyment and pleasure for them, not a necessity. Subsistence fishermen do not add videos of their activities to YouTube!

The facts about where this shark was hooked and whether there exists a legal requirement to kill it also not relevant. The group has announced it's intention to continue to hunt and kill sharks regardless of where they hook them.

The issue here is simple: Can an organization that desires to enhance its incomes by promoting shark diving tours also catch and publicize the catching of those same sharks?

Throughout the public debate, I have attempted to persuade the fishermen that the sharks they obviously enjoy catching are worth more to them as a tourist attraction than as a meal. In return, I've been met with abuse and threats.

Human entrenchment is a phrase that was used earlier, and this seems to me to be the case here. I would deny that these guys need to catch sharks in order to survive. They chose to do it for enjoyment.

Carl concludes that we have forced Andy to carry on shark fishing and you seem to concur with him. My response is that he was doing it anyway (and given his reaction was unlikely to stop), and the force of the marketplace will now allow another operator with a more shark-friendly ethos to take the business that we have tried to persuade him to have.

Have we saved a single shark, probably not. Have we raised awareness and made this an issue that people will now debate and hence chose where to spend their tourist dollars? I hope so. Where we wrong to try? Hell no!