Mary Max: Stop Making Fun of the Sharks

Every year for the past two decades, the Boston Big Game Fishing Club has run its Monster Shark Tournament. Fifty to sixty boats compete to capture the largest shark.

This year’s contest made national news when one competitor captured an almost-1,200 pound tiger shark, although the shark was brought back into the harbor six minutes too late to qualify for the tournament. Still, such a big catch brought national stories and an appearance for the crew on the Today Show.

That offended animal rights activist Mary Max who posted an e-mail complaining that, “NBC makes fun of shark suffering.” It said, in part (emphasis added),

Please send an e-mail to the Today Show at today@nbc.com to let them know how
appalled you are by the story they aired on the 8:00am half hour segment,
Thursday, July 21, about the brutal killing of a shark at an annual shark killing
contest off the coast of MarthaÂ’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.

In the segment, the four men who caught the almost 1200lb. shark gushed over
their kill. By the men’s own description, the shark suffered horribly,
struggling for hours, being gaffed again and again, until he was finally dragged on
board, thrashing for air. (Especially chilling was the laughter and
congratulations from the people standing around watching this magnificent creature being
tortured.)

Please let the Today show know that it is bad enough that certain individuals
like to bash sharks for behavior that is completely natural, but it is even
more disconcerting to see a highly regarded show join in on “the fun” by
making light of the shark’s suffering.

The Humane Society of the United States chimed in as well, complaining in a press release that,

“Contest killing of sharks or any animal is an affront to a civilized society,” said Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president for HSUS wildlife programs. “In this case it contributes to further declines in shark populations while adding to the stigma that surrounds these magnificent predators.”

“Shark killing contests should go the way of the bison killing contests of old. They perpetuate cruel and unnecessary treatment of some of the most ancient and fascinating of the ocean’s creatures,” Grandy said. “Many shark species, including blue and thresher sharks, have suffered dramatic population declines and can ill-afford to be the target of this sort of dubious enterprise.”

Of course, the Humane Society of the United States forgot to mention that the annual contest is carried out with the approval of the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries and actually benefits that public agency.

Gregory Skomal, a shark expert with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, told the Associated Press that many of the sharks end up with his agency after the tournament,

You have to kill them to do the samples that produce the best scientific data. We do the same for other fisheries as well. If the shark tournament goes away, we lose an avenue into this type of science.

The meat from the huge tiger shark that was six minutes late was donated to the Long Island Council of Churches.

Sources:

The HSUS Issues Statement on Shark Killing Contest. Press release, Humane Society of the United States, July 22, 2005.

Animal rights group calls for end of shark hunt. Associated Press, July 29, 2005.

NBC Makes Fun of Shark Suffering. Mary Max, July 25, 2005.

Tiger shark too tardy to get teeth in tourney. Joe Dwinell, MetroWest Daily News, July 20, 2005.

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