One pattern I've noticed in this past year of documentary making is the tendency for we humans to apply our own limited level of understanding of survival to the lives of wild animals when in fact the two do not coincide. Since our lives are quite secure and threat free, It is all too easy for us to forget that these animals are in a constant struggle to survive and as Andrew Fox states, "Predator prey relationships are finely tuned and our intrusion can disrupt that balance." Those who choose to engage in invasive research like to say things such as, "Well, sharks are tough, they live violent lives." That may be true, but that shouldn't be a green flag to go in and do everything just short of killing the animal in the pursuit of data. And just because they don't die in front of us doesn't mean we haven't altered the course of their lives. I immediately think of the injuries Junior sustained at the hands of OCEARCH and MCSI at the Farallon Islands.
While Junior did not die on the platform that day he was badly injured, including a jaw that appeared to be dislocated in photos that surfaced later. When he reappeared he was also covered in bite marks from other sharks and according to James Moskito of Shark Diving International had gone from a huge, dominant male to an emaciated shell of his former self. Is it really such as stretch to believe that Junior's ability to hunt and feed properly was affected by his jaw injury? Is it not possible that his decrease in health led to him being targeted by other sharks? Yes, sharks bite each other, but on this scale its usually males biting females during mating, not the targeting of a large male shark. It's hard to say what happened exactly, but the bottom line is that Junior was healthy prior to his tagging episode and spiraled toward death following.
Another pattern worth mentioning is the drastic difference between independent researchers (self-funded) and those pressured by the competitive world of "publish or perish", meaning those dependent upon grants and other forms of government funding. The independents tend to shy away from unnecessarily invasive methods that benefit the tagger far more than the "taggee".
Debra Canabal of Epic Diving in the WSV hoodie. Get yours!
About the Author
Skyler Thomas is the primary blog contributor, cinematographer, and lead editor at White Shark Video.