Sunday, November 3, 2013

Why I Fight

Hello once again everyone. This blog is going to be a bit different from normal. Since I've noticed that more and more people are viewing this blog I decided that it might be a good idea to finally tell the story of why this blog exists and why I continue to fight what many people probably see as an impossible war to win. The war I am fighting, of course, is for the protection sharks, whales, dolphins, manta rays, and bluefin tuna worldwide. So where did this all begin? Where did my want to create this blog and join the fight start? Believe it or not, sharks were not the first thing I wanted to save. Originally I wanted to be a part of the fight to save whales. I watched the first season of Whale Wars on television and just from watching that I could tell something was not right. After doing some research online I learned that the ways the Japanese went about hunting whales in the Southern Ocean was not only wrong, but as the show says, illegal. I was floored that nobody besides a group of conservationists had the guts to do anything about it. I had to wonder though if whales being killed was the biggest thing that are oceans were facing. After all, the save the whales movement has been around for a long time and has a ton of supporters worldwide.

In 2008 though everything changed for me. I was asked to assist in creating a Shark Week program for a small aquarium. I was charged with looking into specific species and conservation for them. What I found horrified, alarmed, scared, and deeply concerned me. The first images I had ever seen of shark finning were before me and I could not for the life of me think of why that practice was going on. My instinct was that people were still outraged over Jaws and still had a deep fear of sharks. It wasn't till later that I found out that a good number of people still do take that movie as fact and not fiction, but that's a different story. Naturally after seeing the pictures of sharks being finned and sharks with no fins in the ocean I had to look into why. When I learned that it was for a soup, everything changed. I've been going in the ocean my whole life. Literally, my dad had me in the ocean when I was a baby. The ocean I consider to be well, simply put, a mysterious and magical place. I had never seen a shark in the wild. I had heard the stories of Jaws, the New Jersey Shark Attacks that sparked a global fear of sharks, but I never once heard of what was happening to them. Millions of them killed every year for soup. Not just any soup, but a tasteless, toxic, and quite expensive soup. I knew right away that this needed to stop. I needed to do whatever I could with the resources I had to help put a stop to it. I went to several of my local eateries in search of any serving shark fin soup (Happily I found none in my area). I visited local pharmacies that are still selling shark products to alert them of the plight sharks are facing. Sadly one person isn't enough to change a store's product line up.

Looking back, the most frustrating part of doing that was going into a G.N.C. store and asking a manager what the bottle of shark cartilage was for. The bottle itself didn't have any uses listed on it and a very weird dosage of 1-5 tabs per day. The manager said it was used to prevent cancer, fix joints, and restore cartilage. When asked how it did any of that she had no answer. When presented with paperwork stating shark cartilage does not cure cancer she had no answer. When shown that there were literally dozens of plant materials that could be used to help aching joints she had no argument and agreed with me that the product is probably not the best. However, they would not pull it because it is a very good seller. At over $20 a bottle, you would think you were buying something that actually performed a miracle. These products have no purpose in being on store shelves. This coupled with the knowledge of shark finning that I had learned propelled me to begin fighting for sharks, the most misunderstood type of animal in the world. No longer did I look at these animals with a small interest. Now I looked at them and still do with a mission in mind to save each and every one of them.

In 2009 The Cove was released. All it took was about a 5 minute segment of that film to get me to realize that what was going on in Taiji Japan needed to stop. I knew dolphins as incredibly smart animals, but had literally no idea that they were being slaughtered. I always thought that dolphins were one of those animals that had captivated the world and that surely no one would kill them. Boy was I wrong on that one. Soon after, Sea Shepherd launched the Cove Guardians who through social media, keep the world aware as to what is going on in Taiji. It was then I knew that I could do my part to help these animals as well. Though I couldn't go to Japan, I could educate people on what was going on overseas. I decided not to take much of a stand on the controversial captivity issue as both sides of that argument have very valid points, but in the end my main concern lies with the animals that are still in the ocean. I launched my first blog (not this one) as a personal blog that would occasionally involve the fight for sharks, whales, and dolphins. Over time that blog would become less about my personal life and more about these animals.

In May 2012, I had a random thought enter my head. If gentle giants in the form of whales and the two largest sharks in the world were being killed off, what about other gentle giants. All it took for me was to type in google Manta Ray Conservation to throw my hands in the air in disgust. It sickened me. Manta Rays, easily one of the most majestic and gentle animals in the ocean were being killed for their gill rakers for false medication. After reading more into it I learned that manta populations, already not completely known, were in serious decline. To make matters worse, the demand for gill rakers was and is growing. Compared to marine mammals, and even sharks, manta ray protection is extremely low. CITES recently listed them under Appendix II however, which brought some much needed attention and protection to these animals. To see hundreds of mantas dead on a dock though.... Was just too heartbreaking and I just could not keep myself from wanting to help these animals as well.

By this past summer I had become very much aware of over fishing and the impact it is having on our oceans. I wanted to find an animal that I could focus on when it came to over fishing. I found that animal in the bluefin tuna. Here you have a massive predatory fish with a high reproductive rate that still cannot keep it's populations up due to human pressure. Sharks are being over fished as well, but their low reproductive rate makes it very understandable as to why their populations are not recovering as quickly as some other fish species. The tuna though, an endangered species continue to be over fished and now we are risking them being lost forever. We need to stop this over fishing of bluefin tuna before it is too late.

So why do I fight? I fight because millions of sharks are being slaughtered every year. I fight because intelligent marine mammals are being slaughtered in some of the most inhumane ways imaginable. I fight because gentle giants are being wiped out for nothing more than a lie. I fight because we are removing every last member of an incredibly powerful fish from the seas. I fight because without sharks we will die. I fight because I don't want to live in a world where the only place I can see dolphins and whales is at marine parks. I fight because there are animals in that ocean that wouldn't harm any animal that it wasn't going to eat. I fight because those animals need a voice in the world too. We are so wrapped up in saving the pandas and the other "cute" animals of the world that so many people forget about the seas. Where it takes nothing more than a glance from a panda to captivate a person and to make a person want to save them, it takes seeing thousands of dead sharks to get a point across. If they were cuter would we care more? Probably. So I'll keep fighting. I'll keep posting on this blog. I'll keep posting images of the brutality of the world we all live in. Just because we don't see them walking with us doesn't mean they don't matter. Sometimes the things we see the least are what matter most. It's quite simple. If the oceans die. We die.

As always thank you all for reading. I hope you all now know why this blog exists and why I am doing what I am doing here. I don't know why I haven't made this post in the past, but hopefully it clears any questions you may have as to why I am doing this.


  1. Doug,
    I see all your blog entries and noticed very few comments made. I want to thank you for your hard work. Although I focus on sharks (I'm in awe of these amazing creatures) and their suffering, without the rest of the ecosystems that all other over fished species. Sharks would still suffer. So thank you for your hard work and keep it up my friend.
    Chris B

  2. Chris,
    Thank you for all the kind words. I know I don't get many comments. I wish got more honestly, but I'm happy when I see over 100 people hitting this blog. All that tells me is that someone out of those 100 people have read it. Thanks again for the comments!
    - Doug