While wandering through a dockside shopping area I happened upon a shocking sight in a souvenir shop – bottled sharks for sale. Eleven Spiny Dogfish pups were encased in jars for sale to tourists.Since this shop has branches in other areas I visited each one to find a total of 30 additional jars of bottled sharks for sale. Questioning a shop attendant, I learned the bottled sharks for sale are a hot item for tourists wishing to take home a remembrance of their visit to the islands.Two months later I returned to find almost 50 bottled shark pups on the restocked shelves.
The Spiny Dogfish is a member of the shark family. They are found in the North Atlantic from Florida to New England, the North Pacific from Washington State to Alaska and Japan, and the Indian Ocean. Scientists believe the Spiny Dogfish is the longest-lived shark with life spans up to 100 years.It bears live young after 22-24 months, the longest gestation of any vertebrate on earth.
They reach approximately 4.5 feet in length, weigh 20 pounds when mature, and have been known to travel 4,000 miles. They feed on small fish and shrimp. The Spiny Dogfish takes its name from the short, mildly venomous spines located forward of the dorsal fins.
They were the world’s most abundant shark and many diners in England ordering fish and chips were unaware they consumed Spiny Dogfish. The record catch for Spiny Dogfish in the U.S. was over 7 million pounds in 1996.
However, as the world’s sharks rapidly vanish, with many species now considered threatened or endangered, the Spiny Dogfish is also disappearing at an alarming rate. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service recently instituted a conservation plan severely limiting Spiny Dogfish catches. Farsighted conservationists in India also set restrictions to protect their vanishing population.
But…back to the bottled sharks for sale whose maker is so proud of his wares that he does not place a sticker of origin on his handiwork. Since these sharks are now protected in many areas, from where do the bottled sharks come? Where is the wholesaler who offers these shark pups to shops and online merchants? Why are some retailers contributing to the extinction of the world’s shark populations and degradation of the reefs by patronizing those who catch these sharks in reef-destroying nets?
And, most importantly, what are the mothers and fathers who take these bottled sharks home teaching their children? Are they teaching that non-human life has no value other than for display on the mantel; that people have no responsibility to protect the oceans and all that lives within; that compassion and caring is an undesirable trait; and that it is acceptable to be part of the problem rather than the solution?
Must we allow these merchants to sell souvenirs that contribute to the destruction and degradation of our reefs and seas, the things that are so very critical to human well being and survival? The Atlantic Ocean is the backdrop in the accompanying photo…an
ocean this shark pup and the thousands upon thousands like him will never see because they are trapped in death, sold for $17.95.