“Emperors of the Deep” by William McKeever was a fascinating read. The book is exhaustive on both the scientific discoveries about sharks, their role in the ecosystem of the ocean, and their many adaptive characteristics that has propelled them to the top of the food chain as an apex predator. While sharks have excellent natural abilities, there is little reason for humans to fear that sharks will harm or kill humans. There are a few dozen shark bites that occur every year, but death by shark attack is less likely than being struck by lightning.
McKeever also covers the devastating effects of overfishing tuna using techniques like long-line fishing that might catch 10 tuna and 5 sharks, which have its fins cut off and the rest of the shark is tossed back into the water where it slowly and helplessly sinks to the ocean’s floor drowning because it is not able to swim without its fins. Fishermen catch sharks for shark fin soup a delicacy in China that was previously reserved for the emperor and wealthy. The demand for shark fins continue to rise causing shark populations sink year after year. Other problems include sport fishing that occurs along the entire Eastern coastline of the US where a shark fishing sports tournament might host 100+ boats all trying to find and capture the most and largest sharks in a single day or weekend.
Another horrifying aspect of global fishing is human trafficking from destitute parts of Southeast Asia like Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand where people are lured into “jobs” where they are captured and drugged and never paid for the forced labor on fishing boats. The slaves are beaten and drugged with amphetamines to stay awake and work. If they cannot work, then they are killed and thrown overboard. Vessels are also used to transport sex slaves and prostitutes and drugs. It is all so sad that these practices are “normal” at sea and go unchecked all over the world without any publicity or awareness to the rest of the world. The captains of these boats make little to no money for their legal activities fishing for tuna, and then illegally sell shark fins on the black market to make maybe $100, while the boat’s slaves make no money at all.
New global tracking and satellite monitoring is giving governments and consumers the ability to see where a fish was caught and what type of fishing practices were used for the catch. This new technology can be leveraged to hold fishermen and countries using illegal or dangerous fishing practices accountable and consumers can “vote with their dollars” about where and how they want their fish harvested. Our oceans are not an inexhaustible resource and we must do our part to ensure that we can keep the food supply healthy for generations to come.
Get a copy of this inspiring book on the conservation of sharks and other ocean life on Amazon.
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