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January 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 1   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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An Appeal by a Shark Lover

from the January, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Emma the Tiger Shark

You might disagree with shark encounters orchestrated by baiting, but it is widespread (even if it is outside U.S. territorial waters) and has an enthusiastic following by those who have enjoyed the spectacle.

One proponent is Jim Abernethy and his Scuba Adventures, whose vessel MV Shear Water operates from Fort Lauderdale. Since shark baiting, apart from the purpose of harvesting (killing) sharks, was banned in Florida's waters, Abernethy resorted to taking his passengers to the waters close to Grand Bahama Island, where he discovered a shallow area fed by the Gulf Stream with a large population of lemon sharks and a notable number of tiger sharks, too. He named it Tiger Beach.

Although research by scientists at the University of Miami (Neil Hammerschlag, et al. -- Undercurrent October 2016) revealed that these tiger sharks have an enormous range, the same ones turn up regularly at Tiger Beach -- and one of the largest, a female named Emma, has become the star of the show. Abernethy has used his regular interaction with the sharks at Tiger Beach to do conservation work, removing fishhooks that the sharks have had the misfortune to encounter. He recently posted these comments on Facebook, accompanied by a photograph:

"Emma the Tiger Shark one month after I removed her third hook of four to date, using affection to gain her trust in order to remove hooks and all parasites. After opening her mouth every day for a month to watch her wound heal, I stopped after seeing only scar tissue...a complete recovery. The scar from this hook is just inside Emma's right jaw hinge muscle (on the left side of the picture.) She started opening her mouth when she was close enough; perhaps thinking it was a game. Sharks are definitely sentient creatures that need our help to save them from their present course [to] extinction! Please do all you can to save our friends in the sea!"

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