Diving The Galapagos

a blog for DiveTheGalapagos.com

Divers Against Shark Slaughter and Touching Marine Animals

An Open Plea for Support from all concerned Divers:

NoPrice_smNo blood soaked photos or pretty pictures…we’ve seen enough. Now, it’s time for action. This is our open plea for you to get involved, too. At Dive The Galapagos, there isn’t a lot we feel more strongly about than the illegal, inhumane and abominable practice of shark finning. We know many people feel the same and have often wondered how to make a difference. In that spirit, we want to offer up some ideas and invite you to participate.

One day while waiting at Itabaca Canal for the dive boat to come pick us up, I noticed two policemen with dogs standing atop an empty ferry. Since I had never seen police dogs in the Galapagos before, I went over to query their use and pass the time. Plus, I love dogs. I later ran into those same two policemen twice and then at the airport, they gave me a demonstration of how the dogs are trained to sniff out, not just drugs, but shark fins, sea cucumbers, sea horses and other illegal contraband. I also learned how very limited resources are to assist these cops with what they are trying to achieve in the Galapagos and decided to help as much as possible from that day forward. See info here about how you can help them, too.

Now, fast forward a few month. I was researching where I might like to dive in warm water and had decided on one place in Cuba when I stumbled across a video on YouTube that left me livid at the abuse these divers wreaked upon poor sharks. Fortunately, it ended up being passed around online and I was so happy and inspired that others found it equally detestable. It sparked an idea, a dream if you will.

I used to work as an executive in tourism and did not have the freedom to speak my own voice to the degree that I do as an independent. I have only been independent since September 1. I have looked at so many organizations dedicated to the protection of sharks and it only contributed to my confusion of how I could possibly make a difference. Or how effective they are. I must admit though I like the idea of buying billboards in China, my jury is still out on how effective that campaign will be. I know, like anything else, this is a process of education. Living in Latin America has sure brought home the understanding of different cultures in a way that can even produce empathy simultaneous with outrage. Like the shark rodeo video. If this dive guide loses his job, I could imagine in a country like Cuba how impossible it might be to find another way to earn as good of a living. And I can imagine the dive guide permitting such atrocities in order to please the client as he is expected to do in spite of how he might personally feel. I could be wrong, but I can also imagine both sides. As Chris Rock used to say of OJ, “I ain’t saying it’s right, but I understand.”

In any event, inspired by divers in the Facebook community, I am compelled to try to make a difference. So I have created 2 Facebook groups.

First group is Boycott and Blame Shark Killers and the second group is
The Data Project, DIVERS AGAINST TOUCHING ANIMALS.

For Boycott and Blame Shark Killers, I was a bit surprised to not easily find lists of manufacturers using shark products. I know locally, I won’t even purchase from a shop that carries shark cartilage. But I realized I could do more, first by researching who I should avoid and then by hopefully as a collective, encouraging others to do the same. So my hope is that this group will be used by those who feel the same way and that collectively, we compile a comprehensive lists to alert others to how they can help. Only WE can remove the price tag from shark heads…or rather fins. I was surprised to learn how far reaching the practice of using shark products is, not just in China, but in Europe and the US.

And it’s not just the demand for shark fin products, but it’s hard to believe that Shark Tournament still happen all across the US. Just google Shark Tournament. Seek the sponsors of those tournaments and REFUSE TO GIVE THEM YOUR BUSINESS. Write to local city government to protest this slaughter for sport. I was also surprised at the price of entry fees and the huge purses at most of the tournaments. And of course, so many tournament websites have the obligatory Jaws theme song as a music bed. In a civilized world, why this practice is condoned or legal is beyond me. We can help bring it to an end as others have proven by protests, boycotting sponsors, etc.

I received notice of a petition today, We Won’t Buy While Sharks Still Die. I doubt it’s the first or the last of this ilk. It’s hard to be heard as a small voice, but if enough band together, imagine how huge our voice could be?

DATAFor The DATA Project (Divers Against Touching Animals), it seems the practice of touching sharks, rays and other marine life is growing at a frightening rate. YouTube is flooded with videos of people riding and touching marine life not only by the irresponsible types in the Shark Rodeo video, but also by graceful and gorgeous free divers and shark dive operators, etc. I personally feel SO STRONGLY against this practice. I think it is so wrong and I think some well intended people are setting very bad examples that will damage wildlife and could, in short order, completely alter the way marine life and humans interact underwater.

I have always felt so safe diving, even though I felt like prey at the surface. (Note, last July, I actually jumped into a sea filled with fins much to the dismay of some, in order to snorkel with about 50 hammerheads. Earlier in life, I would have considered that so very dangerous. This time, I didn’t hesitate and only upon reflection realized how very much I’ve changed as a result of always diving with sharks.)

To me, we haven’t been underwater long enough for animals to have evolved to fear us or worse. I think that setting an example of touching animals could not only damage them short term, but long term could change their response to divers. I think they may grow to fear us whereas now, they don’t. While I can’t say I feel quite as strongly as I feel about this as shark finning, it’s a close second because of the potential harm we do to the animals as well as my belief that it will alter behavior towards us as millions may begin to pick up this irresponsible practice.

I feel SO strongly that we need to ‘begin within’ and self-disclipline against this practice NOW! This does not require money…just a willingness to express your belief and then you’re on the honor system. I would hope enough people feel the way I do to get involved and present a united front against both the horrific slaughter of sharks for sport or profit as well as a move to make divers think first of the animals they have the privilege of visiting and pledge to treat them with the respect they deserve rather than project human emotion on them in order to indulge our own human desire to interact.

In theory, every certified diver should take this pledge. And imagine how loud a voice would be in speaking out against those things we alone cannot change! If tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of us spoke with one collective message, we would be heard. And both we and our message are united, we will make a difference. Please add your voice to the collective today so together, we can get the message across.

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