While I was gone, Captain Bucky Dennis, a Florida fisherman, caught what appears to be the largest hammerhead shark ever caught on rod and reel. (Thanks to those who sent me this story, by the way.) The 14.5 foot-long shark weighed 1,280 pounds. Why the hammerhead? “I was just trying to find a record that was feasible to break,” Dennis explained.
I gather that Mr. Dennis was all over the media, and is pretty happy with himself. His ambition now is to catch a bigger one as soon as possible.
To which I ask, why? And why do we tolerate such pointless slaughter?
Hammerhead sharks are astonishing creatures, a marvel of evolution. When they are alive, they are hypnotically beautiful. When they’re dead, they’re pretty ugly. (They don’t attack humans, by the way, although even if they did, that wouldn’t be a reason to kill them for pleasure.) I spent about four hours underwater in the Galapagos trying to see one. (Unsuccessfully, alas.) Near the northernmost Galapagos islands of Darwin and Wolf, which our boat did not get to, the hammerheads swim in schools of hundreds, for reasons no one entirely understands. (It may have to do with mating.) Just to see this on video is an amazing and humbling sight. Someday I’ll get back to those islands and experience it firsthand.
Mr. Dennis ought to be ashamed of himself, and the rest of us ought to do our part do shame him.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against fishingâunless you have no intention of eating what you’ve caught. Because that’s not fishing, that’s just killing, and we’re at a period in human history where we can’t afford to do that any more. The planet won’t sustain it. Humans have to be better than that, or we’re in real trouble.
Dennis tried to assuage his conscience by donating the shark to the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, which is kind of like the Japanese saying that they hunt whales for science. John Tyminski, a biologist at the lab, said that the shark was 20-40 years old and pregnant, which makes Dennis’s killing of it even sadder. Tyminski struck the right note about Dennis’s bloodlust.
“We would give credit to the fisherman for donating, but we are not happy about killing a shark for no reason,” he told the Times.