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July 2001 Vol. 16, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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A Cousteau Shark Slaughter

from the July, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Just a generation ago, Jacques Cousteau wrote that his ship, Calypso, accidentally ran over a newborn sperm whale. The creature was horribly sliced by Calypsos twin propellers. The water turned crimson. Cousteaus crew ended the suffering with a rifle shot to the brain. More than 20 sharks moved in to feed, which today we would consider perfectly understandable scavenging behavior. But Cousteau, the most renowned naturalist of his time, felt his stomach turn.

In his book, The Living Sea, he wrote: On deck our men had watched them devouring the whale and were overcome with the hatred of sharks that lies so close under the skin of a sailor. When we finished filming, the crew ran around grabbing anything with which they could punish a shark crowbars, fire axes, gaffs, and tuna hooks and they got down onto the diving platform to thrust, knock, slash and hook sharks. They hauled flipping sharks onto the deck in a production line and finished them off.

What changed our view? The popularity of scuba diving. Scientists and recreational divers eventually came to understand the shark in its own realm.

John Balzar, Los Angeles Times

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