Fishing for sharks is one thing, but surfing on a shark carcass after its capture and posting videotape on Facebook is just begging for trouble. Nobody knows this better than three New Zealand anglers who have spent the past several days apologizing and defending themselves, while the incident remains under investigation by at least one government agency.
The anglers had landed a large bigeye thresher shark after a marathon battle, and took the predator to port to be weighed. The next day they decided to tow the carcass to sea and "feed it to the food chain," Zane Wright, the boat owner, told the Bay of Plenty Times.The trouble began when Eddie Bithell decided to surf on the shark as it was being towed, tail-first, behind Wright's boat, while Mark Collins captured the event on videotape.When Collins posted the video to his Facebook page, without Bithell's permission and without including all of the details, the flood of criticism began. (The video has since been removed.)Catherine Cassidy, an Auckland environmentalist, was pointed toward the video by a shark expert in Borneo, and expressed her disgust to local newspapers and the Ministry of Primary Industries.Cassidy told the Times: "We see people working hard worldwide to establish shark sanctuaries, where every shark counts, and then we see acts like this from a so-called developed country. It is heartbreaking and offensive."The anglers belong to the Tauranga Game Fishing Club. The Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed it's investigating the incident.Interestingly, Shark Diver, a shark ecotourism company, used the incident to point out the hypocrisy of criticism coming from New Zealand, which still allows the controversial practice of shark finning, or removing fins from captured sharks and tossing their bodies overboard."New Zealand is one of the few Western countries left on the planet that not only allows shark finning," Shark Diver states. "New Zealand is a main purveyor of legal shark fins to the Asian market."As for the anglers, they're in damage-control mode.Bithell: "I didn't realize everyone would have such an opinion about it. We were not trying to be disrespectful with dead animals."Wright, who said he releases most sharks but this one had been hooked by the tail and drowned during the fight: "They think we've gone out to murder a shark and we've ridden it while it was alive and tortured it and that's completely not what's happened."A Tauranga Game Fishing Club spokesman: "We do not wish to be involved."Mark Connor, president of the New Zealand Sport Fishing Council, acknowledged that laws do not appear to have been broken but added: "We do not condone this type of behavior at all and we would be very disappointed if it was one of our members or someone associated with the club.... People like this can give us a bad name."As for bigeye threshers, they're in reasonably good health from a population standpoint, according to Department of Conservation shark expert Clinton Duffy."I don't know about the wisdom of shark surfing but the shark itself is fairly common," he said.