To the editor:
I am the owner of The Spicy Shark in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a concerned neighbor.
The Newburyport Shark and Tuna Fishing Tournament begins on Friday, July 23, and I hope the city of Newburyport will stop supporting the unnecessary death of more threatened sharks. If it continues, it would be beneficial if replaced by catch and release.
Some 77% of sharks are now threatened with extinction. By conservative estimate, over 100 million sharks are lost by human action every year – over 250,000 per day. The primary offenders are the trade of shark fins (for shark fin soup), bycatch, and the demand for squalene for beauty products (shark liver is a cheap source).
Ending shark tournaments, or switching to catch and release, is a simple solution to prevent exacerbating an already dire predicament. The three most common sharks killed in New England tournaments are makos, threshers and blues. Makos and threshers are listed under CITES as endangered species, and blues are listed as near threatened.
Two false justifications are often given to keep shark tournaments in place.
“We don't waste the sharks, they’re donated to homeless shelters.”
First, most sharks are unfit for human consumption due to the accumulated toxins. The high levels of mercury are harmful to humans, ranging from birth defects to erectile dysfunction. Secondly, it’s illegal to transfer sharks to a facility as food without the proper meat transfer license. Thirdly, the sharks are often left in the sun rotting, and thrown out in dumpsters in the back.
“We help with conservation/science.”
Just because a fisherman records the animals they catch doesn't necessarily mean that has any value for conservation. Researchers and/or NOAA showing up to collect data doesn’t mean they needed that data. They could get the same data (size, sex, species) through a catch and release tournament.
Sharks have been on this planet since long before humans; they predate dinosaurs and survived that mass extinction. Humans are already on pace to create a mass extinction for sharks. Let’s give this incredible species the respect they deserve. They are worth far more to humanity alive than dead.
The U.S. once was a whaling country. We don’t kill whales anymore, and the thought of it repulses the average American. Whales are better off for it, as is humanity. It’s time to change our perception of sharks.
My position is not anti-fishing or anti-fishermen. Ending shark tournaments, or switching to catch and release, is an easy way to make local impact for a species endangered because of humans.
Martha’s Vineyard ended its tournament in 2014, and the North Atlantic Monster Shark Tournament in Fairhaven ended theirs this year. I hope you agree that the right decision is to end the Newburyport tournament or switch to catch and release.