Greetings everyone. I hope all is well with you all. Today I come with some sad news out of New Jersey. Actually, I'm going to be doing a good amount of blasting of certain people/organizations in this blog so if I offend anyone, sorry, but I stand by each of the statements here.
Okay lets see... Where to begin. I guess I'll start by referencing back to the last blog I did about sharks of New Jersey. I made mention of two species that I want to focus in on for a minute. One being the smooth dogfish and the other being the sand tiger shark. Both of these species as I mentioned are common in the waters off of New Jersey during the summer. The sand tiger is listed as "Vulnerable" and the smooth dogfish is listed as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN's Red List. The sand tiger shark is federally protected. If you catch this species of shark you can find yourself in some hot water with the law. If you post a photo of yourself holding one of these sharks on a beach, you land yourself in hot water with the law (in theory) and with people on the internet like myself. That brings me to the first picture I'm going to put up.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, meet Shawn Casey. In Shawn's hand is a juvenile sand tiger shark. Yes, the same sand tiger shark that is protected. Shawn decided that it was a good idea to post a picture on Facebook (where nothing is really private right?) of himself holding this baby with a big grin on his face. He claims that he released the shark alive. From what I can tell, this shark is not alive in this picture. I have never known a sand tiger that would mind being out of water like that, let along sit still for a photo. This shark was either dead in this picture or hurting very badly. If it was alive in this picture I have a heavy feeling that it is dead now. Either way, this picture itself is illegal. It is illegal to LAND a sand tiger shark. You cannot catch them. This guy caught one and posted a picture of it on the internet. I also know that the proper authorities have been notified. I would however be extremely surprised if anything were to happen to this guy. He'll plead that he had no idea what species it was or that he found it or that he released it immediately. I'm sure very little will come of it, but I'd love to see this guy made an example of.
The second individual is a bit younger and frankly 10000000% uneducated in what a real dangerous shark is. Since he is under 18 years of age, I am unsure about throwing his face all over the internet, so for now I will not be doing that. Instead I will use him as an example of just how uneducated people are about sharks in New Jersey. In the photos I have he is holding up a smooth dogfish with it's throat slit like it was some kind of monster shark. He also has a picture of himself biting the animal as if he were biting it before it bit him. This is a dogfish we are talking about people. Yes the kid is under 18 and just being a stupid kid. I know and I understand that 100%. I also know and have seen adults in the area doing the same thing. It's again that mentality that sharks are something they are not, monsters. I would not be at all surprised in a couple of years to see this kid posing with makos, threshers, etc. due to him being so proud of killing sharks. Even those sharks are not all that dangerous (unless you are trying to drag them onto a boat of course). It still frightens me that people are so clueless about sharks despite having an ocean in their backyards.
The final thing I'm going to do in this blog is rant about two shark kill tournaments that are going to be taking place in New Jersey over the next couple of weeks. The first of the two will be out of River Rock Restaurant and Marina Bar as a "charity" event for veterans. This event is supposed to be to help those veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Certainly a noble cause. I have zero issues with raising funds for that. My issue is this. First of all. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of ways to raise money for veterans with PTSD. Out of all of those ways, why in the world would hunting down and killing two species of animal that are well on their way to becoming endangered species be the best way to raise money for these veterans. My friend alerted me to this interesting fact... Many cases of PTSD are brought on by the hardships of war. Guns, killing, bloodshed, etc. This tournament is the exact same thing. guns, killing, and bloodshed. The exact things that can cause PTSD are going to be used to raise money for those with PTSD? That makes zero sense to me at all. The people who organized this tournament are doing a good thing. They are raising money for the vets. Kudos to them for that. However they are going about it in one of the worst ways possible. Both thresher and makos are eaten in this area, but often times in these tournaments people are not catching the sharks to eat. No. They catch them and then sell the bodies. Some even choose to dispose of the bodies and sell the ever valuable fins. That's an issue with the fishermen themselves though and not the tournament so I'll get refocused here...
What is an alternative then to raise money? One is so easy, it's probably literally slapping the tournament officials in the face. Tag and release. There is not one reason in the world that this tournament could not have been catch, tag, and release. I'm sure people will say it would have been too expensive or everyone wants to catch the sharks to eat them or some kind of other lame excuse, but the fact is, this could have easily been done and given what the tournament is raising money for, I'm sure some group would have gladly donated their time to work with the tournament. Perhaps next year the organizers of this tournament will think about the animals they are targeting and the situations they are in rather than constantly advertising a huge prize purse and a guest in the form of some random celebrity. Next year perhaps they'll take a massive step for shark tournaments in New Jersey and actually stop the bloodshed and killing.
Speaking of huge steps. Another tournament has once again decided not to take a huge step forward. This year marks the 29th Mako Mania. Last year I was able to attend the weigh-ins of the tournament and blasted the whole thing in a blog. Clark's Landing, the host of the tournament was not too pleased with me and granted I have not looked in a while, I was blocked off of their Facebook page for telling the truth about makos and in general proving everything they had to say as to why it's perfectly okay to have a bride and groom pose with a dead baby mako on their wedding day. I cant say I am in the least bit surprised that Mako Mania has not changed at all and is advertising a larger than ever winners purse as the number one way to get people involved. Again, it's all about the money. To top the whole thing off, the people running this tournament actually believe that mako populations in the area are increasing. I'm sorry, but just because a bunch of young makos were killed doesn't mean their numbers are increasing. If that was the case, there would be sharks over 400lbs being caught and there would surely be far more sharks being caught in general than the ones that are brought in. Did I forget to mention that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th place sharks were all under 300lbs with the 5th place shark not even hitting 220lbs? I think I did, well there ya go then. There are reasons you are only allowed to keep one and I do not think it is because of an increasing population. I lean more towards the fact that makos reproduce so incredibly slowly that even taking a couple dozen out of the area will effect that population. In reality I expect nothing less than a lack of education on the animals that the organizers of this tournament target. No, I am certainly no authority and I do not claim to be, but I do have some common sense and common sense tells me that a tournament run by people who think the mako situation is improving in a world where 100,000,000 sharks are being killed every year really have no business being involved in any kind of tournament. Period.
So I'm sure someone will be bugging me and saying that these people are not in it for money, but for food. Just a few days ago a new study came out showing that in sandbar, great white, and dusky sharks had mercury levels 10 times the safe level that humans should consume. That is enough to kill a person. Obviously it is cumulative and eating one piece of meat will not kill you, but the fact is that it can kill you. There is only so much of it our bodies can take and we can only thank ourselves for the mercury being there in such high levels in the first place. Who knows what the levels are in mako and threshers. I have a serious gut feeling that the numbers are very similar given the fact that both of these sharks in question are large and eat similar things to the dusky, sandbar, and even great white. It wouldn't shock me at all to read soon that makos and threshers contain 10 times the safe level of mercury. In my opinion, it's all the more reason to stop eating these animals, but again, I do not buy that providing food is the reason so many people are into these tournaments. I still firmly believe that it is all about the money and the fame of winning a tournament and killing that "monster" shark.
Now for the disclaimers cause I'm sure I'll need them on this one... NO. I do not hate veterans. If you somehow got that idea from this blog then I really do not know what to tell you. YES. I do want Shawn to be punished even if he released the shark. Deal with it. NO. I do not hate fishermen who fish for shark. I simply want them to be aware of the fact that what they are fishing for is not simply another fish, but a health hazard if consumed and an animal threatened with extinction. YES. If either of these tournaments, or both switched to catch and release I would feel a lot better and leave everyone alone. Ideally these tournaments would go away, but I doubt that will happen until the mako/thresher populations get to the point where they need federal protection. Hopefully that covers everything. Thanks for reading my rant! The next blog will be a manta ray blog! Good news for those animals coming out of Maldives!