Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Q&A with Juliet Eilperin!

Would that be one of Doc's Lemon babies?

Did you know that every last bit of the Kesennuma Sharks gets utilized?
Neither did I when I wrote that post - but thanks to Juliet Eilperin's fascinating and meticulously researched Demon Fish - Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks, I have had to change quite a few of my misconceptions! It is required reading for anybody wanting to talk about Sharks with any degree of authority in 2011, as does she - and no, I'm not going to review it: Callum Roberts has done an excellent job here, and here is a strong endorsement by David of SFS.
Long story short: brilliant!

Need I repeat that I am a fan?
Ever since discovering the promo video for her book, she has continued to impress me with a string of excellent articles about Sharks, and this in the big mainstream media where millions of people get to read them. Talk about stellar outreach by the best possible person!
Needless to say that when David approached me with the idea of intermediating an interview, I jumped at the chance!

The result is below.
I must say, I was trying to entice her to be a bit more toothy than in her usual objective reporting but she is just simply too smart and has deftly dodged all the possible pitfalls whilst remaining her usual elegant, erudite and eloquent - likely as a result of having spent way to many years reporting about politicians before becoming an environmental reporter! :)

So, without any further ado - enjoy!

Bula Juliet, welcome to the Fiji Shark Blog. I’ve read and enjoyed your book Demon Fish and very much welcome this opportunity. From what I understand, you have largely abandoned a rather formidable career as political reporter in favor of reporting about ecological issues. Why this apparent change in focus and why have you chosen to focus on Sharks in particular.

After covering a polarized political system for my entire political career, I was interested in a change. One of the things I enjoy most about covering the environment is it touches so many aspects of the human experience—our economy, our health and our way of seeing the world, to name a few. I was drawn to the ocean because there’s so much interesting scientific discoveries being made there, and looking at sharks is a great way to explore the sea’s global expanse.

What are Sharks to you, personally and emotionally.

To me, they’re members of a foreign nation, which we can observe and seek to understand. They also connect us to our past, and link together disparate regions and cultures of the world. Just as important, they’re beautiful creatures who deserve respect in their own right. I have affection for them as well, but I’m not under any illusion that they feel the same way about me.

In conducting your research for Demon Fish, you have traveled the world and talked to many parties: the fishermen, the fin traders, the consumers, the researchers, the Shark conservationists, the Shark diving operators. All of them have interests at stake and all of them are convinced of their position, meaning that there is ample scope for conflict as many opinions appear irreconcilable. With that in mind and also keeping in mind the larger issues of population growth, growth of individual ecological footprints but also Global Warming and Ocean Acidification: how hopeful are you that the most endangered species of Sharks will survive into the next century, and why.

I’m an optimist by nature, and I also believe in the importance of sharing information—otherwise I wouldn’t be in the news business. So I’d say sharks have a good chance of surviving into the next century, because we’re finally having an honest discussion about how they’re doing and what it would take to save them.

Shark conservation strategies have many facets, spanning the gamut from rather strident social media activism to quiet policy advocacy, and from establishing local sanctuaries and local and regional pro-Shark legislation to trying to re-educate the consumers. Many conservationists are at odds about which strategies are best. This blog advocates that since global resources for conservation (money but also people, brain power, passion, time etc) are finite, they must be prioritized in favor of what is more effective and efficient. With that in mind, do you see strategies that in your view appear more promising than others in reducing or even halting the demise of Shark populations.

There’s no question that it would take a combination of policy changes and market forces to eliminate overfishing of sharks. So rather than see it as an either-or, I’d say that it’s clear the world’s policymakers are becoming more open to creating marine reserves and enacting some shark fishing restrictions, but unless the demand for shark products declines in Asia, you’re going to see the hunting of sharks in large numbers continue.

Can fishing for Sharks be sustainable.

According to most scientists I’ve interviewed, only a small handful of shark species can sustain any sort of human fishing pressure. That’s a tough assessment for some folks to accept, but the fact that so many shark species take so long to mature sexually and produce relatively-few offspring at a time makes them too vulnerable to be caught commercially or recreationally.

You state here that you do not wish to dive with Bull Sharks, our flagship species and one of the most timid and endearing Sharks I have personally encountered. Would you consider giving it a try if we invited you and seconded several intrepid dive guides to act as your personal bodyguards.

Yes! I’m confident that if you and some other experienced guides came in the water with me, the bull sharks would treat me with the same sort of respect I try to show them. I’m sure it would be a stunning sight.

Vinaka vakalevu!


Angelo Villagomez said...

And you can get Demon Fish at your local bookstore or from!

DaShark said...

Wellwell Angelo

That's what I would call rather brazen plugging - but OK, because it's you!