Plundering the Seas for a Bowl of Soup
June 25, 2012
For those of us who first saw Jaws
upon its release one June weekend 37 years ago, our feelings about the ocean fundamentally changed. Even at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, my friends and I entered the water hoping we would not become a great white shark’s victim.
The hysteria was captured in what became a familiar beach sign: “Beware! Sharks.” Over the decades, with the help of Shark Week and other cultural staples, we got the message reinforced.
The fact is, such signs would be more accurate in reverse. Sharks have more to fear from people than we have to fear from them. Some species have, in recent decades, declined in abundance by 80%-90% from fishing pressure.
New Yorkers may be surprised to learn that more than three dozen species of sharks and rays are found off our coast, including the world’s largest (whale shark), fastest (shortfin mako shark) and the most charismatic (white shark), maligned (spiny dogfish) and threatened (thorny skate and porbeagle shark) species. Local anglers recalling the days of world-class fishing for mako, thresher and blue sharks lament that those days are now long gone.