Several questions were recently posed by one empassioned individual, relavent to an important aspect of our conservation and educational outreach work in the realm of shark release fishing. The most important and central to all was:
"How can you justify what you guys do?"
Not that we feel a need to justify what we do, but to which we responded:
Judging from your established tone and firmly entrenched position, we wouldn't bet on your interests in what we have to say or what we do as being sincere, but out of respect for your question, here goes.
Commercial or recreational fishing for sharks isn't likely to stop during our lifetimes. Reality. While commercial fishing, especially industries supplying the voracious demand of the Asian fin trade are the undeniable leading cause for the decline in some key shark populations, recreational fishing is also a fractional and tangible contributor to that unenviable trend.
With that said, we're interested in reversing this trend where we can, and with the means and resources we have. Tangible results, as opposed to altruistic acts of futility are what we're interested in. Thus, we're pleased to say that, since we began this work many years ago, as a curiously coincidental or direct result of our collaborative efforts, a number of traditional kill tournaments have either: ceased operations, converted to release formats, have adopted best practices like circle hooks and heavier tackle to reduce fight times or created enhanced release divisions with the ultimate goal of converting to all-release. All the while, as was the case with billfish decades ago, we're proud to be successfully promoting a heightened and ever-increasing respect for these animals within and beyond the sport fishing community. There are no quick fixes for real life challenges like this and it’s not for everyone, but it needs doing.
As you suggest, we could have chosen to do nothing, but our efforts at modifying a culture in forward-thinking ways that are more compelling than repelling (for instance, as opposed to using tactics like good ol' fashioned and largely ineffective protesting) have saved countless sharks. Is it perfect? We suggest no such a thing exists. Otherwise, doing nothing might actually be the best thing to do, but again, that's not what drives us.
Although Utopian longings for a world where, in someone's opinion, everything would be as it subjectively should be, are to be admired, the likelihood of those visions coming to fruition, as a practical matter is ... unlikely. In this case, a world where sharks are not sought after in any way, shape or form for their inherent food or game qualities.
We can't say for sure where you're from, but as Americans, we hold a high respect for anyone's right and willingness to disagree with us and we're also smart enough to know when to get out of our own way. In this case, it's not you we're trying to reach. That would be Utopian thinking on our part, and therefore, an abusive and wasteful act of futility. In closing, we applaud your passion, respect but disagree with your opinions, and hope that whatever work you're doing might someday also bear the tangible fruits of change.
Happy Shark Week,
Brooks Paxton II