Living on the California coast back in the 1970s, fisherman would occasionally pull in shark, which would then be butchered and sold rather cheaply at the local market. We used to grill shark steaks over bay laurel wood. Once, though, the shark that got pulled in required a flatbed truck for transport. It was a great white shark, and it took up most of the truck. The Tomales Bay area is a known breeding ground for great white sharks; they were rarely brought in, but the thought of great whites kept some people from swimming in the Bay lest they be mistaken for the shark’s main food, seal. In front of the grocery store that day, we gathered around the truck to look down a great white’s fangy maw and contemplate mortality.
Then it was butchered like the other sharks and we were able to grill and eat our fear.
I’ve been talking this week about how we, as individuals, perceive the population abundance of various animals (eels, squid and butterflies) versus the actual population numbers and the importance of these animals within various ecosystems. I’ve also talked about the importance of top predators for ecosystem health. The hunting of sharks these days is primarily for their fins, used in a soup that was once intended to symbolize generosity and power (a good article on shark fin soup here). As with many of our human habits, it was born in a time of fewer people, a plentitude of desirable prey, and a much lower capacity of humans to hunt that prey.
Here’s an infographic that speaks for itself.
Just keep scrolling.
You can visit the blog of Joe Chernov, who created this graphic, at Helicopter to Work.