Massachusetts Residents Make Final Appeal to Stop ‘Shark Wranglers’ From Operating in Waters Off Cape Cod
Research Community Joins Local Residents in Support of Petition to Remove Ocearch from DMF Permit and Speak Out Against Invasive Methods
Cape Cod, MA (PRWEB) August 25, 2012
Local residents were the first to openly object to the ℠Shark Wranglers´ coming to Cape Cod. Chris Fischer, of the reality TV show ℠Shark Wranglers´ and founder of Fischer Productions and Ocearch, has been given permission by a U.S. federal agency to work under MA biologist Dr. Greg Skomal´s permit to capture and tag great white sharks in waters off Cape Cod beginning September 4. Ocearch tagging methods differ significantly from techniques currently used by Dr. Skomal working with locals, Captains Bill and Nick Chaprales and pilot George Breen.
A petition started on Change.org on July 16, requesting that the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) remove the Ocearch vessel from its federal permit, has received over 750 signatures. A final appeal was emailed to DMF and National Marine Fisheries Service on August 24. Petition author, Cynthia Wigren, has received statements of support from the research community which were included in the appeal.
A cloud of controversy has surrounded Ocearch, which couples sports fishermen and scientists, as the vessel has traveled to Guadalupe Island and the Farallones with Dr. Domeier and South Africa with Ryan Johnson, among others, to tag great whites. Fischer Productions has filmed the process to create a reality TV show which has aired under the name Expedition Great White, Shark Men, and Shark Wranglers. The show will reportedly not be filming in New England. The controversy is over the capture and tagging techniques employed by Ocearch, which are known to cause harm to the protected species.
Dan Noyes, Chief Investigative Reporter, from KGO-TV San Francisco aired the original story, “Shark tagging technique criticized as being cruel” about Ocearch tagging methods on November 17, 2009. The reporter noted, “Domeier has caught and tagged 15 great whites off Mexico’s Guadalupe Island, but now he is coming under fire after tagging two sharks in the Farallones Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco’s coast two weeks ago. He had to leave half of the hook in one of the sharks after it became lodged deep in its throat.”
While Ocearch was in South Africa in the spring of 2012, the article “Experts cite risky research after man dies in shark attack,” by Faranaaz Parker of Mail & Guardian reported, “The controversy over the research has been brewing for weeks after local researchers, conservationists and cage diving operators discovered that the department had issued a research permit to the company.” http://mg.co.za/article/2012-04-19-experts-cite-risky-research-after-shark-attack
Ocearch methods proved to be more costly for the protected species in South Africa, where the techniques resulted in the mortality of a great white. The loss aired on the third episode of Shark Wranglers, “The Curse of Maya.” Episode five showed the Ocearch crew attempting to resuscitate a different shark for approximately 90 minutes.
In a July 13, 2012 interview with the Park Record in Utah, Chris Fischer said, “There needs to be an open discussion on “acceptable loss.” If you have to catch 100 sharks to solve a 450-million-year-old puzzle and you know you’re going to kill three of them to save the rest,” he said, “Is it worth it?”
The open discussion is happening and shark researchers have weighed in, noting less invasive methods are available to collect valuable data which can be used to ℠solve the puzzle.´ Leading shark expert and author of Sharks of New England, Alessandro De Maddalena explained, “The methodology employed of hooking, exhausting, and dragging onto a platform, is highly invasive and creates huge stress and relevant physical damage to the sharks. There are other less invasive means to attach tags to sharks using a lance, a method that has been used successfully for many years.”
Chris Fischer mentioned, in a July 2012 Boston Herald interview, that bacteria samples will be taken from the sharks´ teeth to create a shark bite antibiotic. Ralph Collier, president of the Shark Research Committee countered, “The record should be clear that any such study by Fischer and his group, is not the first study for this topic. The bacteriology of shark’s teeth is well reported and extends, in the scientific literature, at least as far back as the early 1960′s. Also, historical analysis of these specific bacteria has led to clinical procedures and tests, as well as appropriate antibiotics to be administered to the subjects of shark bite.”
Ichthyologist Jeff Reinhardt added, “As a shark biologist, I am against using extensive and lethal measures to find data that really doesn’t need to be known at the expense of a rare and protected species.”
In a direct appeal to Greg Skomal, Sean Van Sommeran of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation said, “You guys are doing great with the spotting plane and tagging boat teams. Out here in California (MBNMS) and Monterey Bay we’ve tagged 37 white sharks with transmitters since 2005; take your time Greg Skomal. Long term monitoring and non-invasive methods are best and provide best data sets.”
Ralph Collier sums it up by stating, “All of the proposed field studies of Fischer´s expedition have been undertaken prior to this, with comparable results that did not place the shark in jeopardy. The use of hook and rope to capture these animals places them in ‘harms way’ and does not provide any specific data that is not currently being obtained through other recognized research projects that are much less invasive.”
The question remains, should the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries still team up with Chris Fischer on September 4, and use invasive methods to catch and tag great white sharks in an area where they are already protected, knowingly putting the vulnerable species in harms way? Researchers are answering Fischer´s question “Is it worth it?”, and many say “No.”
For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012/8/prweb9826702.htm