Adventure Journal posted an image so good I had to share it in my own blog. While the stats are staggering, this is not new information for me. However, the comments from readers were rather interesting. In particular, comparing the numbers of farmed animals that humans kill each year for food to the number of sharks killed each year helped me reach some fundamental conclusions about why that comparison is so wrong.
Number one, and most importantly, sharks are keystone predators. This means their role is to eat other animals, in essence thinning out the herds and keeping the gene pools strong. Since they eat other animals, by nature’s brilliant design, they do not reproduce at the level that animals further down the food chain do. Thus, it is even more catastrophic to slaughter these animals at the level that we do. In case that didn’t make sense, this is bad for two reasons: We’re removing the animals that keep the ocean healthy and doing it at a rate these particular animals can’t bounce back from.
Number two. For the most part, only the fins are being used while the rest of the shark is discarded. Therefore no argument can be made that the killing of so many sharks helps solve the world’s hunger problems. Here’s how it works; Fins go for 20 - 250 times more per pound than the rest of the shark, therefore if your fleet of boats returns packed with fins instead of the rest of the shark, you have that much more valuable of a cargo load.
Number three. There are 7.5 billion of us and counting. When are we going to stop acting like 7 deaths is a tragedy, particularly when the biggest threat to our future existence is our own population problem?
Yes, OCEARCH has gotten scientists to back their projects, but many of these scientists quickly distanced themselves afterward, almost as quickly as Fischer distanced himself from them and their efforts to actually help sharks. Perhaps some had the good sense to be ashamed that they sold out the very animals they loved for personal career advancement via publicity and salary. Others were simply disgusted by what they saw on the boat or by the fact that Fischer continues to move on from one location of destruction to the next, making money and setting up absolutely no conservation plans.
Dr. Domeier, the first scientist to be involved with Fischer and the television programs finally speaks out; internal reports of Fischer's self-serving motivation, concern over his attitude toward the sharks, and a glimpse at the amount of money being made by those who choose to sell out the well-being of sharks for personal gain.
Domeier claims to have taken the high road by remaining silent all this time, which shows that he again is missing the point. The sharks need to be the top priority, not pride or public image. The sharks needed to be saved from the several damaging shows that took place over the last several years, shows that could potentially have been stopped if the truth about Fischer had been publicized. But I imagine money was behind this silence, as it always is, a clause in the contract requiring those aboard the boat not to disparage the show or Fischer or they’d be in breach and subsequently in danger of losing their payments.
Anyway, below are some highlights from the interview. The full interview can be found here. Thanks to Fiji Shark Diving for publishing.
"My wife and I watched one of Fischer’s interviews, on FOX News, from the lobby of the hotel. We sat in stunned silence as he proclaimed that the entire research program was his idea and that he had pulled together the boat, crew and research. Just weeks prior he had proclaimed that I was nothing more than “a passenger with permits.” Suddenly it was clear this was not a good situation for me. The science message was being lost by the growing ego. In the end, I could not bear to watch the series that was based upon my own hard work. I tried to watch an episode during the season when Peter Klimley took my place…I was sickened at how Peter was made to look so foolish…turned it off again."
"Our success was not due to the exceptional fishing prowess of Fischer; it was due to years and years of my observation, study and note taking."
"Chris wanted to use the crane to pull the sharks onto the platform (yikes)."
"there was no reason to buy such big circle hooks"
"I don’t have huge tv deals and corporate sponsors. So what’s the problem? Fischer slammed my app (and me personally) when it debuted and encouraged people not to purchase it. No, I don’t give the data to Fischer…why should I…it’s my data? He got all the TV shows and celebrity status he wanted…I got data. Furthermore, releasing research results prior to publishing can be problematic when the time comes to publish. Ask any researcher about that. I’ve been sharing more data lately simply to try to keep my organization afloat. But the last person I want running around the world, interpreting my unpublished data, is Chris Fischer. But that hasn’t stopped him from doing so. His brand building (photo shoots and interviews with big hooks draped around his neck, the hyped fishing template for the show) really hurt my reputation as a legitimate researcher. "
"I brought Fischer into my world…he took my idea and crafted an entirely new career/image for himself. He even used the experience to gain his coveted Explorer Club status. Brett’s a good guy, but even he will tell you he (Brett) had no interest in catching sharks…even as we were heading to Guadalupe for the first time. If it wasn’t for my bringing Fischer into the marine science world, and consequently primetime television…he would be sitting in his home in Park City without a big boat waiting at the dock. Yes, he was about to lose the boat."
"Fischer was getting $400K/episode."
"We were able to make multiple episodes from a single trip. Furthermore, I tapped two other private foundations to help pay for the tags and research; financial support that he never acknowledges. Fischer was fairly paid for all of the work we did together…this was not a huge philanthropic venture. On the contrary, he made it clear: “no cameras no trips.” The huge $$ figure he throws around must be for the entire operating cost of his ship and production company for each year he was making these television shows. But that’s not a fair way to account for the actual cost of the research (a fraction of the yearly operating budgets were due to the handful of research trips)…and he never discusses the INCOME."
"1) There is no way Chris Fischer ever spent $5 million of his (or anyone else’s) money on my research."
"We joined forces to conduct 2 expeditions before he got a TV deal. My last Guadalupe Island expedition (Fall 2012) cost about $40K…and that was with the boat making a profit. So do the math. Also, there was never going to be a second expedition (2008)."
- End of interview excerpts
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.