Saturday, August 16, 2008

A shark dead for no reason



Snapper Ledge Deserves SPA (Sanctuary Preservation Area) Status

Is there anything we can do about the ongoing carnage that anglers and spearfisher-persons are doing at Snapper Ledge off Key Largo? I ask because it is an absolute gem of a reef, the fishiest reef in the whole Florida Keys I think. But, it is open for any and all to take fish there. There is only one mooring buoy and I’ve seen it occupied by boats teaching spearfishing classes, and more disturbing is what is being done to the nurse sharks there.

I don’t dive this spot all that often, mostly just during my photo classes, but now on 3 separate occasions I’ve found nurse sharks alive on the bottom, but just barely. They’d been apparently caught or speared for sport, and then left to die. It took them several days to finally die, but sure enough, we found them later in the week dead on the reef.

This week it was even more outrageous. I found a nurse shark curiously lethargic on the bottom on Sunday. He had been stabbed through the back, and eviscerated. I looked at his belly and the entrails were hanging out. He was alive but nothing anyone could do to help that poor guy. Someone probably caught him, stabbed him, gaffed him, and threw him back in to die.

I had 16 photo students with me to witness this barbaric travesty on Sunday, and then were with me on Wednesday to find the white and lifeless corpse on the bottom, tucked in next to the majestic schools of grunt and snapper we were there to celebrate. I have photos of the whole series, including the vibrant shark who became detritus on the seafloor by the act of some ignorant or malicious person. It was pretty outrageous really.

I recommend this marquee dive site be protected as a Sanctuary preservation Area, SPA, just like Molasses Reef is protected. There are plenty of other places to spear fish off Tavernier and Islamorada. We’re only talking about a few hundred square meters that needs protection, because clearly, left to their own devices, uncaring and uneducated cretins are decimating the marine life there for no good reason.

To sign a petition to make Snapper Ledge a SPA, please visit:
http://stephenfrink.blogspot.com/2008/09/petition-to-protect-snapper.html

47 comments:

Kitten said...

Some anglers and spearfishmen are decimating the aquatic life living on Snapper Ledge reef off Tavernier; simply for the thrill of killing. In addition, it appears that these individuals are wounding these creatures for their perverse enjoyment and pleasure. Evidence suggests that they have taken some delight in inflicting serious injury upon these defenseless animals so that they can watch them painfully suffer. This is a viciousness commensurate with current felonious acts codified in law. Society warrants protection from these deranged and armed reprobates.

Nurse sharks are being speared for 'sport' and left to die. They anguishly linger on to life for several days, only to be discovered on subsequent dives dead on the reef. Just this last week the internationally acclaimed underwater photographer, diver and artist Stephen Frink discovered a nurse shark who had been stabbed in the head and eviscerated, leaving his entrails hanging out. Still alive, with nothing that anyone could do to aleviate this creatures' discomfort, it died a miserable death. It's probable that someone caught him, stabbed him, gaffed or sliced him, and then threw him back in the water to die.

What is the difference between 'animal cruelty' for creatures on land and those that reside in the sea, particularly, given the manner of death and injury aforementionly described?

There are an awful lot of policing agencies in the Florida Keys. Surely a plan can be developed which would monitor and curb this type of recklessness. There are county, state and federal laws on the books, regulating an individuals' conduct while in a protected area. It's clear to all, that these sensless and illicit acts must be brought to an immediate halt. The use of weaponry involved in these "Joy Killings and Maimings" is a clear and present danger to everyone.

Our body of law-enforcement, along with the State Attorney and United States Attorney have an opportunity to flex their muscles and leadership abilities, while prosecutorially proceeding with an appropriate expenditure of the Peoples' money, as they take action to protect our only remaining viable reef.

The business community has profited from their use of the environment. With a 'man of conscience' representing their ranks, such as Stephen Frink, I'm certain that they will resolutely do their part in remedying this ongoing tragedy.

We must expeditiously proceed to have this site protected as a 'Sanctuary Preservation Area' (SPA). Those elected and appointed to serve must vanguard this effort. All will be watching.

Evil perpetuates itself not because bad people do wrong, but because good people do nothing. Let us rally behind eradicating this crime being perpetrated upon the "People and Creatures of the
Keys".

Farzanegan said...

Do you not eat fish, Steve? Here's a hint- people fish where there are fish. If you want to have an aquarium, go to one. The ocean is a resource for food as well as tourists like yourself.

Dive4Blood said...

Wouldn't the carcass of the "vibrant" shark unmercifully slain by the "barbarians" become food for the for the "majestic" schools of grunts and snappers you are so fond of? Excellent use of adjectives!! So because a very small minority of fisherman engage in this despicable behavior we should eliminate acesss to the vast majority of those who are sportsmen and stewards of the ocean? Hey, that would leave the whole reef to yourself to sell your UW photogaphy classes. How convenient!

I'm gad to see you and everyone who signed your peition has been a lifelong vegan. Right......

emoscubo said...

Perhaps it might be prudent to determine who the moronic individuals are that are "allegedly" killing these sharks and turn them in to law enforcement. Spearing sharks is already illegal. Bannning all fishing and spearfishing in the place you happen to teach your photo classes....? Do we ban scuba diving when some photo student drags his gear acrosss a coral head? Give me a break.
Come on now Steve, where would you like to see closed to fishermen next, your favorite snorkeling spot? You are way out of line on this one Frink.

emoscubo said...

Who is to say you didnt kill these sharks yourself in a weak attempt to get even family level fishing eliminated so you can run your photo classes? It is prety damn unlikely you find the same wounded shark days later. I think you are up to no good Frink and would caution others against jumping on the close all the reef bandwagon. You are being played.

Stephen Frink said...

To the comments posted above:

1. Farzanegan - No, actually I don't eat reef fish because I think there aren't enough left on the planet. I don't argue with those who do, and rarely even mention it, but since you asked, that's my position on it.

2. Dive4blood - I'm sure the snapper and grunts would have done just fine without the carcass of the shark to eat. But, you are absolutely right, it is an extremely small minority, probably not even measurable, of the spearfishing universe who are irresponsible. In general, it is a more selective and ecologically responsible means of fishing than hook-and-line. I mean no disrespect to responsible spearfishers.

3. emoscubo - To suggest I killed the shark is too ludicrous to even justify a response. Maybe the other 20 people on the boat those 2 days (the day we found it eviscerated on the bottom and the day we found it dead later in the week) would care to comment, but I will not.

Finally, I had an opportunity to chat with local media about this very issue today, and rather than reiterating my position statement, I'll repeat it here:

"The reality is that it is not meant to be a rant about spearfishing. Actually, most spearfishers are responsible, and truth be known, selective harvest by spearfishing is probably less destructive than hook-and-line. Combine that with the athleticism of those who spearfish as freedivers, and you have a sport that commands respect. It is not for me ... I don’t even eat reef fish because I don’t think there are enough reef fish anymore, and I don't eat them and I don't kill them. But, again my argument is not with spearfishing per se.

I do, however, have a big argument with wonton massacre of our marine life. The shark that precipitated this petition was probably from a hook-and-line angler, as I mention in my blog. But, this is not the first time I’ve seen a nurse shark dead on the bottom at Snapper Ledge, and the other time was almost certainly a spearfishing incident. This reef is an absolute aquarium, unique throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic, and there is no “sport” to using scuba and a pneumatic speargun to shoot fish that are essentially puppy-dogs. Most places in the civilized world don’t even allow spearfishing on scuba, let alone in a place where the fish are so docile and plentiful like Snapper Ledge. Plus, the carnage brought on by the hook-and-line anglers here is rampant as well.

One brilliant concept of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is “zonation”. They have established specific zones of use for specific recreational groups. There are areas for hook-and-line and spearfishing, but there also needs to be Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA).

The SPAs allow for a critical fish nursery, and actually help distribute fish to other nearby reefs, where spearfishing and angling is allowed. It is simply good stewardship of our reef to allow a safe haven for fish to become sexually mature and procreate.

A SPA does not discriminate between spearfishing, hook-and-line, and lobstering. It simply means “no-take”. I don’t want the entire Florida Keys to be a SPA, but I do absolutely endorse the concept of a few well-managed refuges for our fish, so we can visit in a benign, non-consumptive, role and get a sense of what our reefs could be like if left to their own means of balance, without human interference."

Farzanegan said...

I didn't say "Reef fish", you did. I said "fish". Nice twist, you should go into politics. Instead of dragging your camera gear along the reefs why don't you go play in the sand and do blue water photography. This is where you take your photography students and make money off doing so. The fact that another group makes money by taking spearfishermen is just competition to you. Why not get the government to help you get rid of them. Brilliant.

grunzster said...

There are some REAL morons commenting here!!!

Divers who have a clue what buoyancy and trim are, don't drag anything along the bottom. Although I've never dove with him or even seen a photo of him in the water, considering he's a pro and I've never really seen the slightest hint of backscatter in his photos, I highly doubt Stephen is "dragging his gear along the reef."

As far as the vegan comment. I'm a photographer...well a wanna be anyway, I've bagged lobster off NJ, NY, and FL, and spearfishing is def on my list for the future. I EAT fish. I LOVE dead animal. Mmmmm...tasty!

BUT there's a HUGE difference between hunting for food, and just killing an animal for fun. Only a sick twisted person would wound an animal for no reason and then leave it to die.

Noah J.D. DesRosiers said...

Designating a reef as a Sanctuary Preservation Area due to horror of non-extractive reef users is just as unreasonable as continuing to let this diverse area go without protection. Vapid indoor discussion overlooks the real size of user groups, the presence, compliance, and effectiveness of existing legislation, the actual goals of all users and the ways in which protection is properly achieved.

Popular pressure may push politicians into protective action, but their mollifying decisions serve to sooth people and may not actually protect the fish. Granting sanctuary based on public rallying and petition can overwhelm local users, who must suddenly argue their validity to disgruntled Californians who visited once a decade ago on their first trip to Florida (see the petition's undersigned for examples). We must remember that the quantity and quality of incidents described in writing can both under- and over-represent destructive activities. The number of times an incident is discussed does not determine the intensity of pressure on the fish themselves. When the situation goes popular, please remember that the incidents described (in this case, fatal maiming of nurse sharks) are already illegal practices that are enforced in some active way. A proper response would be to report the heightened ecological mayhem and let work those whose job it is to monitor and protect that which legislation designates.

If, on the other hand, greater protection is desired based on knowledge that local reefs are depleted, then this process ought to be achieved in a cautious and responsible way. When not being confronted in an accusative manner created by speculation on poorly investigated events (i.e. stop stabbing my sharks you bastard), it's likely that you'll find all reef users will agree that reefs are not the same as they used to be. This is the time of implementation for an SPA - when caution, control, and civility can be relied upon. Proper SPA implementation cannot be run by emotions. The success of an SPA is demonstrated though science-based studies of before and after evaluations of both protected and unprotected areas. This shouldn't take long for the Florida Keys considering the availability of data, the numerous institutions and agencies for reef protection that originally produced the data and the calibre of Florida's reef scientists.

Internet arguments fail to represent reality, but even face-to-face filibustering occurs. The point is to remember that it is not the user groups that deserve our various accusations of gains or losses from preservation area designations – it is the reef. We all want healthy reefs, and we all know they’re not the same now. We can act prudently to achieve mutual benefit for all, especially the reef ecosystem, in a rational way.

Jewel said...

It seems some folks are leaving some pretty harsh comments. Many of us enjoy eating fish and I don't mind people fishing as long as they don't over-fish or kill just for the sake of killing. But now many people are doing just that. It seems many fishermen are now complaining that they aren't able to catch as many fish (or fin as many sharks) as they used to all because of greed- they didn't regulate themselves and depleted their resources. And we all suffer for it.
And because of that, someone has to step in and protect those resources to keep them from being squandered and disappearing entirely. Protecting our marine environment is not a want- it's a necessity! Not just for divers, but for everybody.
I'm a diver who also likes to fish, but I'm not crying over the fact that someone wants to protect the area. The only thing I'm really upset about is the fact that too many marine animals are being senselessly mutilated and left in the ocean to die a slow cruel death. And unless we can catch and punish the responsible individuals, we are forced to simply punish a whole group or certain act. That's just the way it is.

Dan said...

For the love of god this is one of the most ignorant and intolerant articles i've ever read. NO ONE, I repeat, NO ONE I have ever dove with or anyone who I've ever known who dives has ever killed any marine life just to kill. You are misinformed to a point of insanity and are intolerant to a far greater extent. The people who spearfish are some of the greatest and most eco-conscious individuals I have ever met, because if the fisheries are destroyed, so is so many our great passion in life. Also, seeing as the only place you've gotten your information is stephen frink's video, you would know that the only way a spear fisherman could have retrieved their spear would be by killing the shark, making it impossible for a spearo to have "massacred" this animal. it was probably done by some scuba photog who got scared by the shark and, unrightfully and unjustly, ended it's life with his knife. Next time you want to make a completely insane rant, get your info first.

Farzanegan said...

Frink the liar:

"Snapper Ledge has become a popular destination for spearfishing, Frink said. It is common for recreational scuba divers to see the carnage left by spearfishermen, many of whom are under water simply to shoot animals for sport, Frink said. Some divers have reported seeing spearfishermen killing animals within mere feet of them, Frink said."

Stephen Frink said...

I am very conscious of how this has unfortunately been perceived as an attack against spearfishing, which was never my intent.

In fact, there was a front page article in the Sunday Key West Citizen that had several inflammatory things said about spearfishing in the context of the Snapper Ledge petition, and they were attributed to me. I asked them to correct their misquotes, and they promised that they will. It might be of general interest to tell you exactly what I said to them. This is a letter to Tim Ohara of the Key West Citizen:

Tim - Thanks for your efforts to bring public awareness to our request to make Snapper Ledge a conservation area, a "no-take" zone by means of a Sanctuary preservation Area. But, I am concerned that your front-page article in The Key West Citizen may suggest an antagonism towards spearfishing, which is clearly not the intent of this initiative.

Please allow me to address a few key points that are likely to be misinterpreted based on your article:

1. Headline - "Divers Want Ban on Reef" may not be totally accurate in spirit. Yes, SPA designation would make a very small area known as Snapper Ledge off-limits for spearfishing or hook-and-line, but this is not about taking away rights from people, it is about bringing rights to a very specific and carefully designated marine ecosystem.

2. Motivation - I never said that particular shark that motivated my petition was a spearfishing incident. In fact, it almost certainly was not. If you look at my personal blog, which was the first public discussion of this incident, you'll see I did not lay the blame on spearfishing.

Please see http://stephenfrink.blogspot.com/2008/08/shark-dead-for-no-reason.html

Which is not to say spearfishing does not go on at Snapper Ledge. Obviously it does. But my strong motivation here is not any anti-spearfishing bias. Actually, most spearfishers are responsible, and truth be known, selective harvest by spearfishing is probably less destructive than hook-and-line. Combine that with the athleticism of those who spearfish as freedivers, and you have a sport that commands respect. I do, however, have a big argument with wanton massacre of our marine life, and that is an ongoing issue at Snapper Ledge, whether by spearfishing or hook-and-line.

One brilliant concept of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is “zonation”. They have established specific zones of use for specific recreational groups. There are areas for hook-and-line and spearfishing, but there also needs to be Sanctuary Preservation Areas (SPA).

The SPAs allow for a critical fish nursery, and actually help distribute fish to other nearby reefs, where spearfishing and angling is allowed. It is simply good stewardship of our reef to allow a safe haven for fish to become sexually mature and procreate.

3. The unique attributes of Snapper Ledge - For whatever reason Snapper Ledge is unique and spectacular. Not only by the context of the Florida Keys, but by comparison with other places throughout the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Western Atlantic. It deserves to be a "no-take" zone, to protect the marine life there, and as significantly, to create a marine nursery that may help populate nearby reefs that are not use-restricted by SPA designation. If we have a provision in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to create Sanctuary Preservation Areas, this one is particularly deserving. For me, this is about Snapper Ledge, a very small reef area that has the potential to be ever-more spectacular and enduring.

4. Misquotes – Your article takes several lines out of the petition and attributes them to me. Please be aware that I did not author the petition, nor did I review it before it was posted. I believe in the good the petition can do towards getting SPA protection for Snapper Ledge, but recognize that the spearfishing references were unfortunately unnecessarily inflammatory. I think that has taken the whole concept slightly off-track, regrettably, and suggests a false photographer vs. spearfisher dichotomy. It also suggests I have a personal vendetta or stake in this that I really do not.

I'm just trying to do what I think is the right thing for an area that merits protection.

I appreciate the opportunity to clarify any potential misunderstanding.

Stephen Frink

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I feel sorry for those sharks!

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