Shark Anthropologist

The Earth is about 70 percent covered with salt water oceans and within the oceans are hundreds upon thousands of different marine species of animals that call it home. However, there is one animal, the shark, that is seen as the king of the ocean. Patrick Nason is considered a shark anthropologist and in his article “Confessions of a Shark Anthropologist” he discusses how many people have an inaccurate knowledge of sharks which leads to the destruction of the species. Sharks, much like whales, are highly migratory animals with little respect to protected or enclosed zones. This trait creates a common public misconception that sharks are “transgressive predators, menaces to society, and worthy targets of sport”. This has led to an increase in killing sharks for sport. The finning industry almost decimated the global shark populations in 2009. So when Nason saw a fishing boat with a hammer head shark hanging from its rigging, he asked the captain of the boat why he would be fishing for sharks when their populations are in “serious decline”. The captain responded saying “We catch plenty of them, and easily too. More this year than last”. This is another misconception when it comes to fishing marine animals that because a lot are being fished out of the ocean that there must be a lot of them in the ocean. Nason says that one of the greatest problems when trying to change the common beliefs of the public about shark populations is that there is no way to quantify how many sharks are actually being killed. Another problem is that because it is impossible to see everything that happens in every corner of the ocean “there remains a mystery of what oceanic animal do, how they do it, and exactly how many are required to keep doing what they do”. Nason has decided to take an anthropological approach to the ocean to try to protect not only the sharks but every marine species. He states that “working alongside indigenous fishing communities, ecologists, oceanographers… such an approach examines how oceanic spaces and bodies are imagined, explored, and controlled, and how rights to marine resources are established and translated across social, spatial, and categorical boundaries”. Nason hopes that this approach will allow the needs sharks and other species to finally be heard.