This editorial appears in the March 2014 issue of Sport Fishing magazine.
Have you hugged your shark today?
Recently, videos began popping up around the Internet showing ladies latching onto the fins of tiger sharks and even whites to go for a ride. Then there was the fellow snorkeling in Bora Bora whose pals caught him on video hugging a lemon shark at least two feet longer than he, both arms wrapped around it in a lover’s embrace — his head more or less just below the predator’s mouth.
One might argue that such behavior is disturbing. But I also find at least as disturbing some sentiments I noted online that suggest it’s time to stop allowing videos of this behavior “before someone gets hurt.”
I beg your pardon? And what of the right as stated in the Declaration of Independence for every American citizen to enjoy “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and the freedom to make an ass of oneself”?
Actually, we do have the right to do really stupid things as long as no laws are broken. As far as I can tell, unlike with, say, marine mammals, few laws prevent harassing sharks.
Then again, I can understand laws that would fine idiots for teasing seal pups sleeping on a beach or trying to ride manatees. They’re harmless. But one would have to think that big tiger sharks will limit any harassment themselves, thanks.
And as they get sufficiently irritated to attack the irritants — as is sure to happen — we’ll have more candidates ushered into the Darwin Awards Hall of Fame.
For anyone who might not be familiar with the Darwin Awards, they honor individuals who, through their own stupidity and “in an extraordinarily idiotic manner,” have protected the Homo sapiens gene pool by removing themselves from it — an act of “ultimate sacrifice.”
Tongue-in-cheek? Well … some would say yes, some would say no.
Either way, it seems to me that individuals have the right to qualify for a Darwin Award by embracing or playing grab-ass with a big, toothy shark, just as they have — and so many exercise — the right to try for such an award by any number of moronic, easily avoidable paths to self-termination.
To qualify, an individual must meet a number of requirements, according to darwinawards.com. Among these: “astoundingly stupid judgment, self-selection (i.e., the individual causing his — and only his — own demise) and the inability to reproduce (i.e., dead, or alive but rendered sterile).”
Seems to me that clutching, groping, grabbing or bear-hugging a large shark would be a likely path to meeting all Darwin Award requirements.
And in fact, some shark provocateurs have done their best to qualify but, at least so far, didn’t quite make it to the final award.
For example, there was the fellow in Florida who was bitten when he (no, I am_ not_ making this up) attempted to kiss a nurse shark. Apparently, a plastic surgeon was eventually able to restore his face. But the man lives on, presumably in a nonsterile condition, so for all his efforts, he won no award (though for him and others who try but fail, the Darwin Award officials “salute the spirit and innovation of their misadventures”).
Another would-be award winner (take note, you flats anglers), chummed in bull sharks on a Bahamas flat, then decided to go wading among them. One of the sharks removed part of the man’s leg (go figure, right?), and he was airlifted to West Palm Beach for a six-week hospital stay.
I suspect we’ll always have those folks bound and determined to go out with a Darwin Award, unfortunately. The world of recreational fishing has its share. (I have to believe my friend Matt Watson was working to qualify when he made his famous — and subsequently viral — leap out of a chopper to land on top of a sunning and very surprised striped marlin. I’m glad he failed to earn a place in the Darwin Award honor roll.)
Assuming you’re not one of those intent on such an award, I’d suggest you avoid being in the same boat with anyone who utters the four most-dangerous words in the English language: “Hey guys! Watch this!”