In a horrific video posted to Instagram on August 19, two men murder a suffocating blacktip reef shark on the shore of New Smyrna Beach in Florida. They drag the struggling shark across the rough sand by the back caudal (tail) fin, while an onlooker begs them to return the animal to the water. One of the men then pulls out a knife and repeatedly stabs the shark in the head. The video cuts while the shark is struggling, and we have no idea how long the animal endured the intense pain of the stab wounds before dying.
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This disgusting cruelty on display is a common attitude toward sharks in Florida: Because their food supply is rapidly diminishing due to increased fishing, sharks now have to “steal” fishers’ catches (which weren’t theirs to begin with)! According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the killing in this video was fully legal under Florida law, but people are outraged and want accountability from the killers.
Further down the eastern coast of Florida in Palm Beach County, a local shark-fishing tournament in July attracted outrage by local observers, who captured footage of sharks being beaten, tortured, and killed, apparently in violation of the state’s cruelty-to-animals statute and FWC regulations. There are reports revealing numerous apparent violations of law that occurred, including that crews used harpoons to stab a bull shark to death and dragged another shark to death over several hours. It appears that participants may also have illegally used guns, bangsticks, and unapproved hooks to catch and kill sharks. In addition, PETA received unconfirmed reports that participants killed a protected lemon shark.
PETA sent a letter today to FWC Director Col. Roger Young urging his division to investigate and file appropriate charges against those responsible. As the letter points out, timely intervention and action is particularly important, as the company that organized the tournament is reportedly planning another one.
“Sharks simply minding their own business were hunted down and killed in prolonged, agonizing, and seemingly illegal ways by participants in this bloodbath,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel Jared Goodman. “PETA is calling on the FWC to investigate these sickening allegations and enforce the law, and we’re appealing to the public to leave aquatic animals in peace by enjoying surfing, kayaking, and other nonviolent activities.”
Justice for All Fish
The public is rightfully outraged at the cruel murders and beatings of sharks, but not all cruelty to fish gets this spotlight. If a shark shouldn’t be suffocated, stabbed, beaten, or left to die slowly for hours, the same is true for the roughly two trillion fish killed by humans globally each year, including the groupers on so many Florida menus. Fish, who love physical contact with their kin and gently rub against each other, feel pain and fear—and we have no reason to inflict such immense pain and suffering upon them.
Fishing Causes Suffering for All Ocean Animals
The mass murder of fish is both the cause of Florida’s hatred for sharks and a major cause of disruption to sharks’ ecosystems. Globally, 70 million sharks a year are killed by humans. Louis Aguirre, reporter for WPLG Local 10 News, said this as he covered the New Smyrna Beach shark-stabbing incident on Instagram: “A healthy ocean needs a healthy shark population. If the sharks die, the oceans die. Plain and simple.” We need to spare all fish—not just sharks—suffering because of human cruelty. If these videos sparked outrage in you, keep all sea life off of your plate—go vegan!