[There was a video here]
First, a word on bias: A show that celebrates and glamorizes the sport fishing of threatened animals like sharks makes chum out of my bleeding heart.
NBCSN debuted back-to-back episodes of a six-part series called Shark Hunters last night, which followed some fishermen taking part in a Star Island shark hunting competition off Montauk. Their goal is to find the biggest shark to pull out of the ocean and hang on a dock so that they can reap hundreds of thousands of dollars. The show casts the fisherman as courageous sportsmen who "put themselves in harm's way." The sharks are the bad guys, fearsome food chain lords that need to be toppled. It's all very backward and '70s.
Even at its most environmentally responsible, the show rang false. In the clip above, we see fishermen tagging and logging small blue sharks for the sake of scientific research. "The conservation is the reason we're out there to catch fish," says one fisherman out of both sides of his mouth. "And it's really important not to just beat 'em up. We're not trying to beat the fish up. We're just trying to catch 'em, have fun, release 'em. But if [there's] a big enough fish to hang it and weigh it, we're gonna do it." Yeah, because you stand to make at least $100,000. That is the reason they're out there. Obviously.
The New York Times ran a piece a little over a week ago about a catch-and-release competition on the same island that the show was filmed off. It does a good job of summarizing the debate surrounding shark fishing:
This niche pursuit took off in the 1970s because of two unrelated developments. The swordfish, marlin and tuna pursued by most sport fishermen became increasingly scarce, and the director Steven Spielberg turned Mr. Benchley’s book into a hit movie.
“ Jaws changed the world,” said Michael Potts, a second-generation Montauk fisherman and the captain of the Blue Fin IV.
The town was besieged with aspiring shark hunters, and their appetite was equal to that of their prey. The carcasses piled up.
“The more sharks you threw on the dock, the better the day you had,” Mr. Potts, who is helping the catch-and-release tournament organizers, said during an interview at a harbor restaurant. “Nobody questioned it for years.”
The local marinas, led by the Montauk Marine Basin, capitalized on the interest by presenting shark-fishing contests, which brought more tourists, more money, and, eventually, environmentalists. “The greenies were flying a plane over — ‘Save the Sharks,’ you know?” said Barry Kohlus, who has fished here for 52 years.
Mr. Kohlus is among those who point out that many marine biologists say the real culprits for diminished shark populations are demand in Asia for shark-fin soup and commercial boats’ use of lines that are miles long and snag sharks in huge numbers, intended or not. Federal rules limit recreational shark catches to one per boat per trip anyway, he said.
“You can’t wipe out a species with a rod and reel — it’s not happening,” he said.
But other anglers had developed some doubts over the years, citing large sharks that were later found to be pregnant and a shift in attitudes about killing sharks — many of which are not very palatable — for sport.
Find something else to hunt that isn't going to collapse our food chain, you know? Pick on someone your own size.