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Posts Tagged ‘Sharks’

Wiki imageFor those of us living on islands surrounded by miles and miles of water, as these clearly are, the tragic shark attacks of the past weeks convey a resonance that goes deeper than the horror of the deaths.

With the Indian Ocean on our doorstep we’re used to seeing the sea almost every hour of every day, but we’re looking at it a bit differently for now, contemplating what lies beneath the barrier between air and water, and from many angles.

For sure, sharks are scary and we’re keeping our kids to the shallows, but many are also considering what the seas may still promise when these children are adults. With part of the reaction to the recent shark attacks amounting to a virtual war, a petition is circulating advising caution.

In response to a government statement by Mr St Ange, director of Seychelles Toursim (sic) Board who said “We need to find the beast and get it out of our waters,”

We would like to highlight the following misconceptions implied within this statement1. Sharks are not beasts they are ancient fish highly specialized and adapted to hunting in aquatic environments.2.Sharks have for centuries lived, reproduced and hunted in the oceans travelling (sic) thousands of miles each year, therefore, the notion of a land based species i’ll adapted to the aquatic environment owning the seas is a little ridiculous. 3. By “get it out” do you mean remove humanly to another location or as some reports have stated begin a shark hunt?
As we are sure you understand culls of species without knowledge of their impact can destroy ecosystems and be tragically detrimental to other species reliant upon them.

Tourism relies on the ocean and any widespread shark culling will have a widespread negative effect on the reefs and the reasons people travel to your beautiful islands.

With an estimated 100 million sharks killed by humans every year, shark populations are crashing in oceans all over the world, some species depleted by over 90%, so the idea of a massive cull does not sit well with everyone.

Many governments and the UN have acknowledged the need for shark fisheries management, but little progress has been made due to their low economic value, the small volumes of products produced and sharks’ poor public image.

That “poor public image” thing hasn’t been helped by the deaths of two young men calmly taking to our beautiful waters. Seychelles depends on two industries for financial security: tourism and fishing. With the world’s second largest tuna processing plant here fish are a very big deal.

Located in the Seychelles International Trade Zone, IOT is the second largest tuna processing and canning plant in the world. In the year ending 31 March 2009, IOT processed almost 66,000 metric tonnes of tuna and sold 4.6 million statistical cases of tuna cans, mostly to the UK, French and Italian markets.

That’s a whole lotta dead fish, folks, and doesn’t even begin to take into account the bycatch that never makes it as far as the factory.

This article published in Australia this morning illustrates many of the issues surrounding the tuna industry.

It will come as a surprise to some that eating fish is bad for the environment. In the past, fish was seen as a healthy and sustainable food option with few ethical implications.

But we know now that fishing fleets are completely dependent on fossil fuels, and have to travel longer and longer distances to find fish in commercial quantities. We also know seafood stocks are crashing at an alarming rate.

The methods we use to improve catch rates harm habitats and kill other species we never meant to eat in the first place.

Unfortunately, farming fish does not solve these problems.

The best solution to this growing problem is to eat only those fish you know to be harvested sustainably.

The issues, of course, are not only local, not limited to the local economy, happy tourists or putting tuna in tins.

Nope.

The issue is a global human population at close to seven billion and growing daily which puts paid to any idea of sustainability over the long haul.

Shark-free seas and cupboards full of tinned tuna may actually sound okay to some, but when the oceans die we’ll go with them.

There is, however, the option put on film way back in 1973:

In the year 2022, the population has grown to forty million people in New York City alone. Most housing is dilapidated and overcrowded, and the homeless fill the streets and line the fire escapes and stairways of buildings. Food as we know it in present times is a rare and expensive commodity. Most of the world’s population survives on processed rations produced by the massive Soylent Corporation, including Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, which are advertised as “high-energy vegetable concentrates.” The newest product is Soylent Green, a small green wafer which is advertised as being produced from “high-energy plankton.” It is much more nutritious and palatable than the red and yellow varieties, but, like most other food, it is in short supply, which often leads to food riots.

For any who may not know where this goes, we’ll skip to the last line of “Soylent Green” …

“Soylent Green is PEOPLE!”

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Anyone who has not yet heard of the tragic deaths from shark attacks in Seychelles just isn’t paying attention, as the story went global very fast after a British honeymooner became the second victim in a fortnight.

Following on the heels of the future King of England’s own honeymoon here, the story quickly became fodder the world’s media could really sink their teeth into and requests for info, photos, gory details … whatever … have already come in to me from reporters hoping for a local angle competing publications may have missed.

Here is my response to an email from The Daily Mirror:

I’m on a different island, the main island of Mahé, not Praslin where the attacks occurred, so have none of the info you’ve asked for.

As a service, however, you might remind readers that the sea is full of fish and some of them are dangerous and that not all holiday destinations are Disneyland. I am hoping these tragic events don’t lead to a massive shark kill, as it is their soup we enter when we decide to go for dips outside the confines of swimming pools.

As happened in Norway recently, man met beast on beast’s turf and shit happened. Not nice. Not pretty. Very sad. That bear, by the way, was in bad shape

While examining the 39 stone male that was shot and killed after attacking the campsite of 13 people, Norway’s veterinary institute discovered that several of the bear’s teeth were “very damaged” before the attack.

“Under two of the canines and many of the incisors, the nerves were exposed. This causes serious pain and changes the behaviour of bears,” Bjoernar Ytrehus, the veterinarian who examined the bear’s head, said in a statement.

“This could be a factor that contributed to the attack,” he said.

“Starving and suffering, a bear is more unpredictable and aggressive than normal,” he said.

Well, yeah. So am I. And uninvited guests would not be welcome here, either, under those circumstances.

The Indian Ocean is much bigger than a Norwegian island, however, and sharing the water is usually quite okay. Any casual snorkel reveals the vast variety of life under the surface where animals swim, crawl, burrow, float, sleep, breed, eat and get on with the business of living. There is an obvious food chain that ranges from small to big to bigger to huge with each creature filling a function. That’s what’s often called “Nature”.

Shark is a popular menu item in Seychelles, so obviously man-bites-fish is common enough, but contrary to some lines of thought, humans are also a link in the food chain. Sure, we’re top predators and kill more of our fellow Earth inhabitants than any other species, but that doesn’t mean we’re not beyond being considered snacks.

There is no malice in a shark attack, no Gee, that guy just got married and looks so happy on his honeymoon, so let’s put paid to that involved. A big, hungry fish has no motive for mayhem other than lunch and notes no difference in packaging.

We can thank Stephen Spielberg for imbuing us with accusatory dread over sharks … and I have … and the lurking fear and accompanying music that comes unbidden in mirky water, but the fact is we give up our role as top predator when we enter the water and might as well change our name to Frank Furter.

Being on holiday does not convey safety and no amount of stars in a destination’s designation encases a visitor in an unbreakable bubble of protection. The world’s most beautiful beach isn’t a ride at Universal and there’s no keeping your hands and arms inside the vehicle at all times option for those who chose to think it’s safe to get in the water.

Sharks are ancient, complex and fascinating creatures that have been around in one form or another for more than 420 million years.

Since that time, sharks have diversified into 440 species, ranging in size from the small dwarf lanternshark, Etmopterus perryi, a deep sea species of only 17 centimetres (6.7 in) in length, to the whale shark, Rhincodon typus, the largest fish, which reaches approximately 12 metres (39 ft 4 in) and which feeds only on plankton, squid, and small fish by filter feeding. Sharks are found in all seas and are common down to depths of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). They generally do not live in freshwater, with a few exceptions such as the bull shark and the river shark which can live both in seawater and freshwater. They breathe through five to seven gill slits. Sharks have a covering of dermal denticles that protects their skin from damage and parasites, and improves their fluid dynamics so the shark can move faster. They have several sets of replaceable teeth.

Well-known species such as the great white shark, tiger shark, blue shark, mako shark, and the hammerhead are apex predators, at the top of the underwater food chain. Their extraordinary skills as predators fascinate and frighten humans, even as their survival is under serious threat from fishing and other human activities.

That serious threat amounts to an estimated 100 MILLION sharks killed every year by people, many just for their fins.

That, too, is tragic.

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