04.10 badi macchi, the whale shark

i just watched an incredible film called sharkwater last night...

the shark trade is a scary, scary thing. in the film, surrounded by sharks who nuzzle up to him like happy dogs, torontonian rob stewart, director of the film, reveals the shocking reality. only 5 deaths each year are attributed to sharks. ten times that are attributed to elephants. in fact, sharks aren't interested in eating people, they predate dinosaurs. they are docile and highly intelligent creatures possessing more senses than humans do. the oldest living predator on earth, and the most important predator in the sea, sharks are critical to the regulation of plankton, responsible for 70% of the earth's oxygen production.

the scary truth? only 10% of the earth's sharks remain. and they are in danger.


largely due to the chinese delicacy, shark fin soup. i compare the soup to diamonds, a totally fabled luxury. falsely believed to contain healing powers, shark fins (and other parts) sell for a ridiculously inflated price. the soup sells for $200 per bowl, even though the fins have no taste whatsoever. chicken and pork are the flavouring agents. sharks are hunted around the world for their fins, a billion dollar industry, and a deathwish for anyone wanting to make a film exposing it.

i did a bit of digging and found that in india, shark liver oils are being used to preserve boats.

i found this good article about another film made about the shark trade - in india. the article is entitled, of sharks and bigger sharks, about mike pandey's film, shores of silence, nominated for the green oscar at the wildscreen 2000 festival:

The gut-wrenching film documents the slaughter and trade of whale sharks on the Western coast of India. And Mr Pandey is the first Indian film-maker ever to focus on a large marine species. ``The film which was shot under extreme conditions took almost three years to complete and aims towards creating policies to support a ban on the killing and trade of whale sharks in India as well as finding sustainable alternatives for the fishermen,'' says Mr Pandey.

...as a 10-year-old boy he had sailed from Africa to India by ship and throughout the voyage he was mesmerised by huge creatures that swam alongside the ship. ``Now nearly 40 years later, while shooting a film on coastal India in Gujarat, the memory of those creatures urged me to look for them again. I travelled all along the Gujarat coast asking fishermen if they knew of the badi machhi, the whale shark.''

But what Mr Pandey and his crew saw made them shrink in horror. And what started as a feel-good film on these gentle giants would turn out to be a tale of blood and gore. Hundreds of these sea giants are butchered on the shores of Western India every year. There is a great demand for shark meat and fins in South Asia. The oil from their livers is used to waterproof boats. Shaken by the senseless killings, Mr Pandey decided to make a feature film on these creatures. As the crew filmed in the area and met local people, the magnitude of the problem became clear.

Though the prime concern of Mr Pandey and his crew was the conservation of the shark, they saw a different aspect of the dilemma that ran deep into other issues concerning mainly the socio-economic status of fishing communities.

Shores of Silence makes an impassioned plea for the setting up of a whale shark sanctuary. Given the frequent sightings on the Gujarat coast, these waters are of international significance and declaring them as a sanctuary would help protect this vulnerable species. Fishermen could augment their income by doubling up as tourist guides for visitors eager for a shark sighting.

Mr Pandey is in his elements when he talks about what should be done to save whale sharks from perishing at the hands of mankind. Says he, ``The ocean is relatively a new horizon for humanity. Management of marine resources at this point is critical to avoid abusing what mistakenly appears to be a limitless resource zone.'' ``Man,'' he says, ``has interfered with nature's delicate balance. We have ruptured the system and if it continues, we may pay the price with our own extinction.''

copyright © 2001 indian express newspapers (bombay) ltd.

original article here

sharkwater is in theatres now. go watch it.

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Patrick said...

i compare the soup to diamonds, a totally fabled luxury.

i so rarely hear a woman say this. diamonds are a needless scam, even though they are beautiful. you can make them artificially, cheaper, for the same quality. but anyways...

...all these misconceptions about sharks (and other animals) blow my mind. the great animals of our planet suffer for the perceived "benefit" they serve to our own kind, and it makes no sense. i don't mean to sound like i hate humans, but sometimes i wish we had a natural predator to keep our numbers in check. we're already out of control.

salima said...

hmmmm. i wonder if there was a predator which fed on humans, if it was a bottom feeder - would it catch enough of the human scum to make a difference?

Patrick said...

yes...it was called the bubonic plague.