You may (or may not) know this, but on top of being a shark conservationist, I’m a poet. This year I decided to synergize my love of poetry and my love of sharks to do something to help my favorite fishes, so I’ve been putting together a book of poetry where the profits from the sales will be donated to Fins Attached Marine Research and Conservation. I’m doing a mini-release of some of the poems called Chumming the Waters as a chapbook preview of the larger release, Words for the Men in Grey Suits, and I’m pleased to say I’ve already been able to donate a few hundred dollars to the cause. Why do I mention this (outside of hoping you’ll hop on board the shark conservation-poetry boat)? Because tonight’s shows both talk about the star of, and negate the premise of, one of my poems, “The Red Sea Accords”. So, as great as these shows were tonight, I’m a little miffed. Of course, as a conservationist/poet, I don’t have the science training of say a skilled marine biologist. Let’s let Shark Week get us closer to that goal!
Night 4, Show 1: Deadliest Sharks — 3.5 of 5 Shark Fins
Oceanic whitetips used to be one of the most common sharks in the sea – like a toothy version of the passenger pigeon of North America. What’s that you say? You’ve never seen a passenger pigeon? That’s right, you haven’t, because humanity blew them out of the sky and into extinction back in the 20th Century. They say the flocks used to be so numerous that when they took flight they could blot out the sun. And now? You can see one at the Smithsonian, stuffed and on-display as a monument to Man’s stupidity and shortsightedness. This show takes us around the globe to watch two scientists (Doctors Dormeier and Bruce) as they try to unlock this shark’s secrets before we send them into the history books. We get some wonderful shots of deep blue-water diving, and a few mentions of the problems they face. I think at this point, we need to start naming names, and showing the problems. Write this down, set it as a reminder, do what you’ve got to do, but this is a Grade A Scientific Fact:
Longlining, primarily by the tuna (for sushi and tuna fish sandwiches) and shark fishing industry (for soup and quack medical supplements), as well as gill netting and FADs (fish attracting devices) are decimating Oceanic Whitetips (ed. – opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of The Klute and do not necessarily represent those of Nerdvana. Sue him, Starkist).
You can help save Oceanic Whitetips by not eating tuna unless you can have the chef or the can confirm that your tuna was caught by “poll-and-troll” methods, which result in almost zero by-catch, and avoiding any shark product at all. Anything else, and you’re part of the problem, sorry (and maybe just avoid tuna too).
OK, angry science rant off. Begin new angry science rant! We learn from the show that the Oceanic Whitetip was responsible for the deaths of men of the USS Indianapolis (but they greatly overstate the amount of men killed by the sharks and not by dehydration, exposure, and injuries from their ship getting torpedoed). They may have scavenged the dead, but did they eat 600 men alive? Probably not. Discovery should really stop going to that well. People might get the idea that we’d be better off with them, and we’re not. Killing off the whitetips would be like killing off lions and hyenas in Africa, it would throw the balance of nature so out of whack, it would be felt everywhere, from the pocketbook to the dinner plate.
Night 4, Show 2: Dolphins vs Sharks – Faceoff — 5 of 5 Shark Fins
I mentioned that shows tonight featured the star of one of my poems? See above (although the shark of my poem sounds suspiciously like my ex-wife’s Jewish grandfather). In the poem, the shark please for peace between Jews and Muslims in Israel, using the relationship of sharks and dolphins in the Red Sea as an example of how two opposing forces can co-exist. It’s a great poem, I think, and it’s completely and totally wrong. If this special is to be believed, and the science completely backs it up, dolphins and sharks are completely and constantly at war.
This is a fascinating show from beginning to end. We get amazing footage of dolphin and shark interaction. This includes an encounter between a hammerhead and dolphin that if you like dolphins is going to make you really, really sad, and another between Jojo, a murderous dolphin in the Caribbean that likes to kill harmless nurse sharks to “protect” his human diver friend. Did you know that dolphins can count? I didn’t until last night. Did you know zebra sharks can be trained do swim to a trainer for a treat and scratch? I didn’t until last night. Where Air Jaws: Night Stalkers delivered on presence and cinematography, Dolphins vs Sharks Faceoff delivered on jaw dropping facts and footage. Seriously, one of the best specials of the week, and one I’m going to seek out and watch again (I think the Sharkopedia Edition airs tonight before the new shows). If you only watch one Shark Week show this week, make it this one (Shallow Water Invasion and Air Jaws: Night Stalkers are the runners-up).
Let us know how you’re Shark Week is going! We’re down to the home stretch, with Nuclear Sharks being the one I’m really interested in. That review might come late, folks, because tonight at Lawn Gnome Publishing (905 N 5th St, Phoenix, AZ 85004), I’m hosting Shark Week Live! – where we’ll have music of The Coconauts, the science of Amanda Mozilo (ASU graduate and marine biologist), and some of my poetry, live! Proceeds of the event will go to Fins Attached and it should be a great time. Check out the Facebook event and be there!