Now that university is over, it is finally time for summer. Yet, no one could have predicted that this would be the hottest summer our generation has ever experienced, and this heat is only a small preview of what is to come in the next few years. On hot summer days people crave cooling down. And there is no better place to cool down than in the ocean – just so long as there are no sharks, right?
With the release of the first true blockbuster movie “Jaws” in 1975 sharks became one of the most feared animals . Therefore, it is no surprise that whilst any mention of dolphin or whale hunts guarantees a large media outcry, the killing of sharks is usually considered less tragic.
On Thursday, July 14, 2022, the 89th Annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo was hosted. For the first time in seven years, the shark category has been reintroduced. Whoever catches the largest shark, wins a price of $12,000. Sharks that are ”clear to catch” are bull sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads and black tip sharks. Hammerheads are an endangered species; the other three shark species are classified as “near threatened.” Thanks to this year’s rodeo, the internet has been flooded with gruesome videos of men slaughtering endangered sharks – the epitome of animal cruelty. These videos make us question who the real blood thirsty monsters are in this story.
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The Ocean Needs Sharks
Not only are shark hunts horrific acts as such, but they endanger the ecosystem and oceans at large. Being apex predators, the highest predators in the food chain, sharks are important for maintaining balance as they remove the weak and sick, influence their prey’s habitat and diets, and indirectly maintain seagrass and coral reef inhabitants. According to the Oceana organization, the loss of sharks has led to a decrease in coral reefs, seagrass beds and commercial fisheries, which affects both ecology and economy. To give one example, sharks feed on rays. A study in North Carolina showed that the decrease of sharks led to an increase in rays which in turn ate all of the scallops – which would have otherwise been caught by fisheries. To put it quite plainly, shark hunts are not only cruel but immensely short-sighted. The organizers of the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo clearly couldn’t care less about animal rights but the fact that the economy and fishermen themselves are being negatively affected by the loss of sharks should be important even to them.
Who Is Behind the Rodeo?
One of my first questions was: how is it possible for an event like this to take place in 2022? But, a more pertinent question is who is responsible? Of course, the answer is a number of corporate sponsors. Coca Cola claims to make a difference in people’s lives, communities and our planet by doing business the right way. Upon visiting their website, one is basically bombarded with sustainability and corporate social responsibility reports. Yet, they belong to the list of sponsors for the 89th Annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. And so do other famous companies such as Chevrolet, iHeart Radio and the US Air Force. With social media exercising a major influence on companies reputations, nowadays it is more important than ever to call out companies for their actions and keep them from repeating their mistakes in the future.
Where Is the Media Criticism?
I initially learned about the rodeo through an Instagram video posted by Nina Dobrev. The video shows her diving with tiger sharks and in the caption the actress calls out the Alabama rodeo for killing animals for “sport, prize money and bragging rights”. This left me with another question: how come no famous news outlets had managed to draw serious attention to the gruesome event?
Apart from the official press release and positive publicity, courtesy of Fox News stating that “the fun will continue all weekend,” there is not much information available about this year’s hunt, let alone any criticism. Has climate change and the goal to save our planet not been on the top of the agenda for many journalists? How could an an event which poses such an enormous threat to our environment not be discussed all over the news? Should it really be up to Nina Dobrev to call out Alabama, Coca Cola, Chevrolet and all others?
As much as I would like to fly to Alabama myself and put an end to this awful tradition, it is now up to us to call out the crimes committed against our planet. It is up to us to draw enough attention to the event and everyone behind it.
In this heat, a Coke zero used to be one of my favorite beverages to cool down. It looks like I’d better stick to drinking water after all.
Cover: Vova Krasilnikov
Edited by: Hana Maurer