June 27, 2013 Key West, Florida
I wake up one morning to find a small transparent shrimp on the steps of our boat. Looks like a suicide.
Next day Ivo finds another one. And another one the day after. A dead shrimp becomes a part of our morning routine. We wake up, we make coffee, and we collect the inevitable shrimp.
There must be a shrimp kingdom beneath our boat, Fata Morgana. The shrimp king, a fat orange fellow with long antennas, probably had concluded, after a restless night full of hallucinations, that Fata Morgana is a powerful shrimp goddess. One who’s anger and might could annihilate in a minute the entire shrimp population for no particular reason. “Therefore, he had announced to all, sacrifice is needed to appease the powerful goddess hovering above our shrimp kingdom”.
I take the little carcass and gently place it on a hook on one of the fishing poles. I don’t have to cast far. I just drop the hook with the shrimp directly beneath the boat. Two minutes later I catch a small fish. With this little fish as bait Ivo pulls out a bigger one.
And with the bigger fish we catch a reef shark, about four feet in length or maybe even five. It isn’t easy pulling it out of the water, the animal resists and tries to free itself. Its heavy body is silvery grey with a white belly. Its head and jaws are smaller and less impressive than the Great White shark we have all seen on TV. The Reef Shark is a common coral reef dweller and they are not dangerous to swimmers. Once, a six-foot reef shark passed nearby as we were snorkeling around a reef and none of us panicked.
Thrashing about on the deck of the boat, fighting for its life, the creature doesn’t look scary at all but frightened and helpless. It is a beautiful animal and I am against killing it.
„100 million sharks are killed each year-by longlines, by „sport“ fishermen, or by a barbaric practice known as shark finning. Hooked sharks are hauled onto boats; their fins are sliced off while they are still alive. These helpless animals are then tossed back into the ocean where, unable to swim without their fins, they sink towards the bottom and die an agonizing death.
With 90% of the world’s large shark populations already wiped out, sharks are being depleted faster than they can reproduce. This threatens the stability of marine ecosystems around the world. Sharks are vitally important apex predators. They have shaped marine life in the oceans for over 400 million years and are essential to the health of the planet, and ultimately to the survival of mankind.“ (from http://www.seashepherd.org/sharks/)
Sharks are endangered species but Ivo and the kids insist on grilling and eating it. Ivo says he is not exterminating large shark populations, just providing protein for the family, like Bear Grills would do…
And so we do. We eat the shark. There is so much meat and no bones. It is not bad at all but a bit chewy. I feel guilty…
The next day my belly is killing me, swollen, hard and hurting like hell. I feel like dying. The pain goes away very slowly; it takes me a few days to feel good again. I am sure it is the shark meat even though everyone else is fine. I knew we shouldn’t eat the shark…
Often in ocean predators bigger than four feet heavy metals accumulate, like iron and mercury, and people avoid eating them.
Today, we are more aware of the problems posed by unsustainable fishing practises around the world. New legislation regulating the overfishing of sharks are being implanted around the globe.
Shark are critically endangered and faced with extinction and some species are already wiped out due to overfishing and shark finning practises. From predator they have become pray. The survival of this marine creature with false bad reputation is being threatened. And it is not just the sharks who are in trouble. All life is interconnected in a fragile balance, and if sharks disappear, our own survival is at stake.
Personally, our family has become aware of the horrific shark-hunting industry thanks to a 2006 Canadian documentary by Rob Stewart Sharkwater. The film is not only informative on the subject, but also full of thrilling action, suspense, and hidden camera footage, as the film crew gets chased by poachers and police in Guatemala and Costa Rica, exposing the illegal shark trade and corruption. It is a must-see documentary.
We decide, from now on we will no longer fish for and eat sharks, unless we are forced to do so by extraordinary circumstances.
* A link to 100 Great Points of Interest in Sharks and their Conservation by Erik Brush