What Do You Do With A Rare Shark?

Eat it

Dr. M (1605 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





4 comments on “What Do You Do With A Rare Shark?
  1. I understand this may be sad to the scientific community. Much knowledge may have been gained from the specimen. However, the real sad response would have read “Waste it” meaning kill it, and throw it over. Which is what a lot of American fishermen probably would have done.

  2. I agree jess. Who are we to criticize something in hind sight? I bet that shark was delicious with lemon, butter and garlic salt. The real problem is that we as scientists aren’t reaching the right people to educate them about the environment that surrounds them.

    If people do not know the research needs of scientists, the reasons for conserving resources and the identification of fauna inhabiting their waters, why should anyone have done anything different! I guarantee many of us have all eaten a potential new or rare species. Everything that enters our oral cavity is undergoing the process of evolution one way or another!

  3. MY first thought was about how they caught it — what was a mesopelagic shark doing in the shallows where it could encounter artisanal-level fishing gear? My guess is that it was going to die anyway, i.e., that it was injured or something. I’m also guessing that it was entangled in the gear (whether a gillnet or a foul-hooking event in a hook-and-line setup).

    That being said, let’s parse this out:
    1) Are folks angry because it was killed? Well, if it was going to die anyway, that’s a moot point.

    2) Are folks angry because it was eaten rather than “saved for science”? Then we need to be proactive about outreach to fishermen that some species are rare enough that we’ll pay for them (or shipping/storage/etc.) at least an equivalent of what it would pay to the fishermen if sold. I have a standing request for all of the pelagic longline fishermen I work with that they should save “anything weird”, or at least take photos of it for me. We cannot simply be passive voices arguing about what “should have” been done, but rather need to take our case to the folks actually interacting with these species.

    (As an aside, let’s also please NOT use this as an opportunity to generically bash “fishermen”, especially artisanal ones in likely a low-income area, and even more especially if they had no idea — as is probably the case — that their catch was sought-after by Western World scientists. Given a personal choice between feeding your child or not, let’s admit that most of us would choose to further our genes through our offspring’s survival.)

    Finally, I did a lot of work on pelagic longline boats for my dissertation work, often bringing back loins and chunks of tunas and swordfish to school, where we would have VIMS-wide sushi parties upon my return. One of those times, I happened to bring back part of a longfin mako shark. The bit of mako meat we cooked was flabby and unappealing, even though it had been stored well — I doubt that the muscle tissue from a mesopelagic planktivore would be any better!

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