Posted by: underseaencounters | July 21, 2009

Sharks Have Surprising Advocates on Capitol Hill

Looking over my recent posts, I have to admit I’ve been focusing on whales to the exclusion of almost all other undersea animals, except sea turtles. Partly it’s due to my “google alerts.” I had it set to give me stories about sharks, but I kept getting stories about sports teams, so I removed the alert!

I heard this shark story on the Rachel Maddow show: Sharks had some unusual advocates this past week—nine survivors of shark attacks (some missing limbs) lobbied Congress last week to tighten laws against overfishing and shark finning, a practice in which fins are sliced from a shark for its meat and the rest of the fish is left for dead. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in Asia, but is threatening shark species around the world. Finning has been banned in most international waters, but advocacy groups say the rules are poorly enforced.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature recently released a study that reports that roughly a third of all sharks—including hammerheads, the great white, and mako sharks—are in danger of extinction. This lobbying effort in Washington was organized by the Pew Environment Group.

Sharks are “charismatic megafauna,” those big exciting animals that garner a lot of attention. But sharks aren’t CUTE animals and so people don’t get emotional about them like they do about pandas, except perhaps people like my son Tim.

Yet sharks need to be protected and shouldn’t be indiscriminately slaughtered for a luxury soup. I hope the effort of these shark enthusiasts who lobbied Washington will bring attention to the wasteful and cruel practice of shark finning and the dangers of overfishing.


The other shark news that I missed was brought to my attention by my faithful blog reader and friend Deb Steinberg (thanks Deb!). A 25-foot basking shark was found dead off the coast of Long Island near Jones Beach. The shark was alive when it washed ashore, but died soon after. The cause of the shark’s death is as yet unknown.

If you’re going to the beach on Long Island, don’t have visions of JAWS! Basking sharks may be huge, but they are harmless to humans. They open their big mouths to filter out plankton and small fish. I would love to see a basking shark in the wild.



  1. Aw. That plug was too sweet– thank you so much!

    And I love your blog, so being a faithful reader is easy :).

  2. I had a four-year-old student once who talked about sharks every day at school. His show-and-tell items were always from aquariums and other sealife spots. He brought in a shark tooth once, too.

    I loved listening to him go on and on about sharks…

    • That’s neat…once kids really get into sharks and learn about them, they want to protect them. There are tons of great kids books on sharks–like THE TRUTH ABOUT GREAT WHITE SHARKS by Mary Cerullo.

  3. Do we have much life in the Hudson river?

    (I’m actually not joking with this question.)

    • I think there’s a lot of life, just not sure if it’s safe to eat it. I see guys fishing off the pier… it’s much better than it was when I was a kid when it was really polluted (before the Clean Water Act). But I don’t know for sure about this…

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