Last night I found out a long liner went to Playa Del Carmen and caught 9 Bull Sharks. I visited Playa in February of 2010 specifically to see these Bull Sharks and I have my flights booked to go back in December of 2010. The news struck a very personal cord with me on a few different levels. My first thoughts were of disbelief and sadness. I was sad because I know these particular sharks and that they are the same ones that return year after year. If they are killed, that population will be gone forever. Not only is this the death of a generation, most of these sharks are thought to be pregnant so two generations are gone. I am aware that long lining and the general killing of sharks is happening around the world en-masse and find it appalling and disturbing. Having it happen so close to home, so to speak, made it extremely personal.
When I went in February the hotels were redoing the beaches by scooping up sand from under the ocean and dumping it on shore. The noise made the sharks disappear for a short time. I arrived just when they were starting to come back. They were shy and wouldn’t come in close even though we had lots of fish for them to eat. These are shy and intelligent creatures. Ones that myself and many others enjoy spending time with. Not only did my heart break for the individual sharks, but for the ecosystem as a whole. As top predators sharks keep the food chain in check. Scientists often view sharks as a litmus test for the health of an underwater ecosystem and when sharks are not present it usually means something is very wrong.
Then you have the economic impact. The local newspapers reported 500 families benefit from the tourism these sharks attract. I am one of those tourists. I pay thousands of dollars to go see these sharks. If the sharks aren’t there, I won’t go and the local economy loses my money. That money will undoubtedly be spent somewhere where sharks are abundant. I hope governments will realize this and do their part to protect their sharks. I say “their sharks” liberally. Many shark species migrate and are not bound by our human made lines in the sand. So a shark may be protected in one country only to swim to a country that does not.
I did not sleep last night. All I could think about was “how can I stop this from happening again?” I don’t know that I came up with any new ideas, but I did come to one conclusion. A conclusion that had been brewing in my brain for a long time. I cannot sit by while this is going on without some sort of action. This is a small example of what is happening all over the world and I’ve had enough. If you have any ideas to help I’d love to hear them. Better yet, do something yourself to help out. Hopefully, I’ll see you out there enjoying a healthy ocean.