Niagara Gazette

September 22, 2013

SINGER: Saving the sharks

By B.B. Singer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Libertarianism has positive value, but not for poor sharks who badly need government on their side. “Poor sharks?” Isn’t that an oxymoron?

No way. Thankfully, for sharks knocked off gruesomely in huge numbers, New York — impelled by State Sen. Grisanti’s forthright sponsorship of a bill — has done the right thing; but by a law unfortunately going into effect almost a year from now, still not matched by many other states, and vulnerable to restaurants suing. The law prohibits shark fin commerce or use here. i.e., no more fin soup in these parts, Syracuse, Albany, and most importantly, in the Big Apple. If it makes it against legal challenges, thank the Lord ...

I know — we’ve long thought of sharks as horrid things (think of Spielberg’s “Jaws”), and I realize they’re still featured on popular shows as terrors of the sea, not least, via the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week,” recently viewed by nearly 30 million people. The term “shark” has also been synonymous with ruthless business types. But what’s being done to actual ones in waters around the world is repulsive and heart-rending, and should be considered beyond the pale, even to attorneys looking for a buck.

I can already hear this retort: don’t you eat fish? Haven’t you had a scallop or haddock dinner?

The answer: sure I’m hypocritical, few aren’t in this regard, and I admit I’m guilty each time I open a can of Alaska salmon, thereby procuring Omega-3 fish oil. The only people who can say they’re acting fully on principle are outright vegetarians, refusing categorically to eat what a good friend of mine calls “dead creatures.”

For this fine nurse, we’re all in the chain of life together, and not what a celebrated philosopher once dubbed us — “lords and possessors of the earth.” Of course you might retort that animals, particularly in the Northeast, have been doing well of late, especially Bambis (to the point where there are some 4,000 auto-deer accidents each day in the U.S.!)

But the oceans are definitely being vacuumed of their fish, and when it comes to sharks, unnecessary, sadistic harm massively directed against too many species requires prompt attention. As it does in the disgusting bear paw or elephant tusk trades abroad, among other horrors.

So — what organization should one join to help these sharks? When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, my wife and I were members of Sierra Club (clear-cut forests and endless stumps constant elbow-tuggers as you drove through mountain country); and my daughter remains a member. Now I’m thinking of something like World Wildlife Fund, though that would help many other beleaguered animals, too (think chimps, lions, etc.). When it comes to an emphasis on sea creatures alone, there’s organizations like Oceana, and that may be my choice.

Now I must briefly describe or reiterate what some of you already saw in the papers a little while back, and what I find so abominable I can hardly face this sad reality.

Millions — as many as 70 million — sharks per year are slaughtered for their fins, and far too frequently, tossed back into the ocean flipper-less, unable to swim or defend themselves, and therefore, doomed to perish. Where’s the new Sir Paul to do a “Blackbird”-type song on this? Where’s the outcry? Why are too many states and countries still going along?

When you’re decimating whole species, and affecting many others in ultra-vulnerable, already polluted oceans, being politically correct shouldn’t work into it. There are simply things one can do without.

Sure, rarefied pianists playing for dukes and duchesses circa 1900 could somehow ignore the massive slaughter of African elephants, just so they could tinkle the ivories on works by Chopin. Again, there’s been plenty of hypocrisy in this regard, and no one’s quite immune, and fingers can always be pointed back, agreed.

But do we really need shark fin soup so badly? One picture of a huge pile of these fins like a mass of discarded rubber tires filling a junk yard should make you agree that we don’t.

B.B. Singer has taught at several colleges in the area, including Niagara University.