"I wanna go out there and catch maybe the last one," said Mark "the Shark" Quartiano on How Jaws Changed the World, which Discovery premiered last night as part of its Shark Week lineup. By "last one" he means "the last shark." As in, "I would gladly have my hands be the ones responsible for finally collapsing our ecosystem."
He could be trolling. Quartiano is a somewhat notorious figure already; he's been accused of being an attention whore by people who actually know a thing or two about shark populations and care about how endangerment works. His crazy eyes make everything he says really convincing, though.
How Jaws Changed the World focused on the impact Steven Spielberg's 1975 landmark blockbuster had on actual sharks. It's well-known that the film's demonization of great whites took a chunk not only out of their population but the population of sharks in general (Peter Benchley, who wrote the book from which the film was adapted, spent the rest of his life repenting and attempting to convince people to stop killing sharks). But on the bright side, Jaws also ignited interest in marine biology, which means that there are now more people around to fret at the impending food-chain collapse.
The flagrancy of people like Quartiano, who runs a charter shark-fishing business in Miami, isn't to be scoffed at. He was profiled in Juliet Eilperin's excellent social survey of humans' relationship with sharks, Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks, wherein he lamented his current typical daylong wait to catch a shark ("20 years ago, forget it. 10 minutes.") while skirting responsibility, despite having claimed to Eilperin that he's killed 100,000 of them. He seems oblivious to logic.
You can read an excerpt of the Quartiano section of Demon Fish via The Week. Here's the most offensive part:
It is harder work now pleasing his customers than it was in the past, and he blames commercial fishermen who set long-lines. These fishing lines with baited hooks frequently end up snaring sharks, which then drown...
"Those long-liners do more damage in a night than we do in a year," he says. And Quartiano simply does not believe that species such as bigeye thresher sharks are endangered, because he still hauls them in on his rod and reel. "I've caught more than anyone else on the planet. There's no way they're endangered."
Data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service tell a different story: Federal officials estimate that recreational landings of large coastal sharks outpaced commercial catches for 15 out of 21 years between 1981 and 2001, with U.S. recreational anglers catching 12 million sharks, skates, and rays in 2004 alone. At this point, NOAA estimates that recreational anglers in the U.S. catch roughly 200,000 sharks a year. Apparently, all those bachelor and bachelorette parties add up.
You can see in the clip above that Quartiano feigns ignorance on his total haul — since speaking with Eilperin, he has reduced the number to, "10, 20, 30 thousand? Some people say more, but I don't know how they come up with that figure." He also told Eilperin that he thinks sharks "are cool" and hopes "they'll be here after we're gone." In How Jaws Changed the World, he says that he'll gladly pull the last one out of the water. He's evolving in all kinds of ways.