In a gruesome video posted to Instagram on Aug. 19, two men kill a suffocating blacktip reef shark off the coast of Florida’s New Smyrna Beach. They drag the struggling shark across the rough sand by the rear tail fin, while an onlooker begs them to return the animal to the water. One of the men then pulls out a knife and stabs the shark repeatedly in the head. The video is shot as the shark struggles, and we have no idea how long the animal endured the intense pain of the stab wounds before dying.
This disgusting cruelty on display is a common attitude toward sharks in Florida: As their food supply is rapidly declining due to increased fishing, sharks are now forced to “steal” catches from fishermen (which were not theirs to begin with) ! According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the killing in this video was completely legal under Florida law, but people are outraged and want to answer to the killers.
Further along Florida’s east coast, in Palm Beach County, a local shark fishing tournament in July sparked outrage among local observers, who captured footage of sharks being beaten, tortured, and killed, apparently in defiance of the brutality of the state towards animal statutes and FWC regulations. There are reports of numerous apparent violations of the law, including crews using harpoons to stab a bull shark and dragging another shark to death for several hours. It appears that participants may have also illegally used weapons, bangsticks and unapproved hooks to capture and kill sharks. In addition, PETA received unconfirmed reports that participants had killed a protected lemon shark.
PETA today sent a letter to FWC Director Colonel Roger Young urging his division to investigate those responsible and bring appropriate charges. As the letter points out, timely intervention and action is particularly important as the company that hosted the tournament is reportedly planning another tournament.
“Sharks, just minding their own business, were hunted and killed in lengthy, painful and apparently illegal ways by participants in this massacre,” said Jared Goodman, general counsel for the PETA Foundation. “PETA is calling on the FWC to investigate these sickening allegations and enforce the law, and we are calling on the public to leave aquatic animals alone by enjoying surfing, kayaking and other nonviolent activities.”
Justice for all fish
The public is rightly outraged by the brutal killings and beatings of sharks, but not all cruelty to fish gets this spotlight. If a shark should not be choked, stung, beaten or allowed to die slowly for hours, the same applies to the roughly two trillion fish that are killed by humans worldwide every year, including the groupers on so many Florida menus. Pisces, who love physical contact with their kin and gently rubbing against each other, feel pain and fear – and we have no reason to inflict such immense pain and suffering on them.
Fishing causes suffering for all ocean animals
The mass killing of fish is both the cause of Florida’s hatred of sharks and a major cause of disruption to shark ecosystems. Worldwide, 70 million sharks are killed by humans every year. Louis Aguirre, reporter for WPLG Local 10 News, said this while covering the shark sting incident in New Smyrna Beach on Instagram: “A healthy ocean needs a healthy shark population. When the sharks die, the oceans die. Simply.” We must spare all fish – not just sharks – the suffering of human cruelty. If these videos have sparked outrage in you, then stay all marine life off your plate – go vegan!