Fishing for brown sharks no longer appropriate


To the Editor:

Congratulations to the MV Times for choosing such a talented writer and vastly knowledgeable fisherwoman as Janet Messineo as the new fishing report columnist. She is a distinct credit to herself, a valuable resource and notable asset to the Times staff. Good choice!

In her August 30 fishing report, Janet expressed several interesting observations on brown sharks. She noted that current Massachusetts law states that “no brown sharks can be taken,” and that in 2008, “National Marine Fisheries Service banned all commercial fishing for these sharks.” Additionally, brown sharks are listed on the IUCN Red List as vulnerable.

Brown sharks’ threatened status, and the well-documented fact that 90 percent of the world’s shark populations have disappeared, should give us all pause. Why do we so dismissively reject the idea that the few remaining brown sharks that bless our shores do not have the capacity and natural right to live their lives without suffering immeasurably for the entertainment and amusement of humans? What are the mortality rates, enduring pain levels, and reproductive consequences that brown sharks experience after fighting for their lives for hours at the wrong end of huge hook and line, only to be released back into the ocean, as if nothing ever happened? Their lives are precious to them as ours are to us. Are they not? Why do we hide from this simple truth? How would we respond if a person, with a hook in his/her lip, was dragged back and forth between the Chappy Ferry and the Edgartown courthouse for two hours behind a pickup truck, then released to their normal life? Outrage perhaps?

In my view, entertaining ourselves by willfully catching and releasing brown sharks is no longer appropriate. More important, I sincerely hope that the MV Times Fishing Report will consider exploring this and other important ethical Island fishing issues, which will, hopefully, lead to a better understanding of our relationship and responsibilities to the natural world. Martha’s Vineyard sport fishing enthusiasts are historically good stewards and knowledgeable protectors of our Island’s natural resources. It is my opinion that our fishing community elders, our friends and neighbors, would be well served to consider taking the initiative of rethinking the advisability of sponsoring and participating in events such as the annual MV Surfcasters Catch and Release Brown Shark Tournament.


Steve Maxner

West Tisbury