Plundering the species


To the Editor:

Martha’s Vineyard is well known all over the world as a beautiful and peaceful Island. Its shame, however, is the Shark Tournament held every year in Oak Bluffs. Here, mutilated bodies of sharks are strung up over the downtown waters for all to see, and while the world has gone forward to understand the value of depleted seas and vanishing species, this little town goes right on plundering and killing what is fast becoming a dying species.

Taiwan, an Asiatic country, has become the first Asian nation to completely ban shark finning, a gruesome practice in which fins are cut off sharks and the mutilated bodies dumped overboard to die in pain and agony. This full ban takes effect in 2012, the same year that Martha’s Vineyard, that idyllic playground of the rich and famous and the homes of people seeking peace from a troubled world, is planning to continue this horrifying practice. “This new regulation will spare sharks from the torture of being finned alive and is also expected to reduce the number of sharks caught,” an article written by The Humane Society in Washington, D.C., observes and goes on to state that Taiwan is the one of the largest shark fishing nations in the world, and the law is a significant step towards shark conservation.

Why is this news significant? It is because it stems from a nation and a part of the world that has always believed that shark fins have a strong medicinal effect in fighting certain illnesses and also acting as aphrodisiacs. If Taiwan can see the light, why not Martha’s Vineyard? Far from being a leader in the conservation of our earth’s diminishing seas, the Oak Bluffs tournament continues to be a jolly, fun competition starring dead bodies of innocent sharks. As one person from Martha’s Vineyard voiced it, “This tournament is a waste of an endangered animals, a gross display of ignorance, along with excess of public drunkenness.” And I believe this comment has a great deal of merit.

I do not believe that the shark tournament started out to be other than a money raiser for Oak Bluffs businesses, which I can well believe is needed for our Island. However, do we have to improve our economy on the backs of tortured sharks? My answer is no.

In some parts of the world sharks have been hunted for valuable medicines. In Hong Kong, to which 87 countries export shark fins, the cost for a large bowl of shark fin soup is $100. In India, a single killed whole shark sold for approximately $600 to $3,000. This is Asia, it is not the United States.

The base fact given out by the Shark Conservation Society and endorsed by Animal Protection groups in the U.S. is that none of these aphrodisiacs have been proven over thousands of years to have any medicinal effect. Are we not more enlightened than these Asiatic beliefs?

“Between 1999 and 2009, an average of fewer than five people died from shark attacks each year worldwide,” according to the Conservation Societies. MV is famous for JAWS, a good movie, but that was a fantasy. Real sharks don’t often kill, and real sharks always suffer when they are strung up for people’s applause and especially the viewing by young children who make up a large part of the O.B. Shark Tournament audience. We are teaching young people a horrifying lesson that it is okay to kill for a fun festival in Oak Bluffs, a lovely town on a peaceful Island.

Roberta B. Mendlovitz

Vineyard Haven