Viral Shark Video Shows Why Tourists and Wildlife Entertainment Don't Mix
By now you might have seen the terrifying video of a 10-foot great white shark breaching a diver's cage off Isla Guadalupe in Mexico. Although the operator of the diving vessel, Solmar V, has called this a "one in a million" occurrence and the diver escaped unharmed, interesting questions have been raised about the broader use of wildlife as entertainment.
Great white shark breaches diving cage! https://t.co/ylNR28lFwp #gabeandgarrett #greatwhiteshark #shark #diving #youtuber #sharks— Gabe and Garrett (@Gabe and Garrett)1476410088.0
Coming face-to-face with a great white shark is a dream for many adrenaline seekers and can be a lucrative source of tourism dollars for shark encounter operators. According to The Guardian, Isla Guadalupe is a major hotspot for great white shark cage diving, with excursions as low as $100 or as high as several thousand dollars.
However, animal rights activists have long campaigned against using wildlife as a tourism activities. "Animals aren't actors, spectacles to imprison and gawk at, or circus clowns," animal rights organization PETA says. Just last week, TripAdvisor announced its decision to ban ticket sales or generate booking revenue from tourism experiences where travelers come into physical contact with captive wild animals or endangered species.
.@TripAdvisor Ends Bookings to #Wildlife Attractions https://t.co/P1WDhwpAsX @peta @World_Wildlife @Katie_Cleary @pamfoundation— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1476371928.0
During a dive, tourists are submerged underwater in a steel cage as chum is thrown from boats to lure sharks. Critics argue that feeding or baiting a wild shark with chum might affect its natural behavior and put people at risk. Florida has banned the feeding of sharks for this reason.
"When people feed sharks, it can change their behavior and cause them to start associating people with food," Ryan Brown, spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told the Sun Sentinel last month. "This puts divers at risk, especially those who aren't diving in a protective cage. Florida law prohibits shark feeding in state waters, but the practice is currently unregulated in federal waters further from shore."
10,000 #Sharks Swarm Florida Coast Beaches https://t.co/bmtaOshAXQ @ClimateReality @Earthjustice @Oceana https://t.co/LZF5V9R2Dh— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1455656662.0
Solmar V managing partner Jorge Cervera Hauser said that the company has been injury-free since it opened in 2004 and that their cages have been inspected and reinforced.
"There is always room for improvement and measures are being taken so that incidents like this don't happen again," Solmar V wrote in a Facebook post.
Overall, shark attacks are rare. According to Oceana, "over the past five years (2006-2010), an average of 4.2 fatal shark attacks have taken place each year worldwide."
And what about the safety of the sharks themselves?
Take this video for instance. You may have noticed that the shark was bleeding from the gill and the dorsal fin. These great predators cannot swim backwards, making it more difficult for the creature in the video to escape from the cage. Sharks cannot close their eyelids to protect their eyes when attacking prey, adding a measure of unpredictability.
"When a great white shark lunges and bites something, it is temporarily blinded," the cameraman wrote in a description for the video. "They also cannot swim backwards. So this shark lunged at the bait, accidentally hit the side of the cage, was most likely confused and not able to swim backwards, it thrust forward and broke the metal rail of the cage."
The shark did not suffer any serious injuries, Hauser said. Additionally, sharks are not usually harmed in any way from shark cage diving activities.
Shark Diving Unlimited owner Michael Rutzen argues that shark cage diving plays a role in conservation and education.
"We have to show people these animals to ensure their survival," he told Responsible Travel. "It's no different from viewing leopards and lions."
Great white sharks are currently listed as "vulnerable" on the World Wildlife Fund website. The organization states that these sharks are "decreasing in numbers and are rare due to years of being hunted by man for fins and teeth, and often as a trophy for sport fishing. The great white shark is often caught as bycatch by commercial fisheries and can also become entangled in meshes that protect beaches."
5 #Shark Species That Should Be Revered, Not Feared https://t.co/OJtvPm0xu4 #SharkWeek @Earthjustice @acousteau @Oceana @Waterkeeper— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1467382306.0
Andrew Evans of National Geographic Traveler argued that shark cage diving has done little to stop the biggest threats against sharks.
"Shark cage diving has not ended the Asian market for shark fin soup, or countered overfishing, or preserved ocean habitats or passed legislation to ban the killing of specific species of sharks. Nor have I ever met a reputable marine biologist who condones the commercial business of shark cage diving," Evans wrote. "In my opinion, shark cage diving makes a mockery of real conservation efforts to preserve an animal that is in rapid decline (so far, we have lost 90% of the world's shark population since 1950)."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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