“There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed.” ~Mohandas K. Gandhi (Warning: Some readers may find the pictures in this blog post disturbing).
Yesterday, we took a shore-side drive to
When your career is in a biological science, especially one that is based in field research, you are exposed to life and death daily. You come to understand that cycle as an integral piece of a healthy ecosystem, and seeing a natural death of an animal changes from a mournful moment to solemn recognition of a bigger process in action. But, when you come upon an animal that has had its life taken by a hook, or a piece of line that cuts through its body, or a plastic bag lodged in its throat, you never stop feeling infuriated.
The first spotted gully shark had been killed within the hour we found it. It was a female, her gills were bright red and her body was still cold to the touch (cold because she had just been in the cool water, if she had been on the beach for awhile, her skin would have been hot from the sun – like the other three sharks we found). The line had cut through the corner of her jaw and it was obvious she had given the fishermen a “lekker fight” since the tension of the line had worked a massive wound into the side of her face. Out of curiosity, we collected her to do a full autopsy to further determine her cause of death, but were not expecting to find that the majority of this 1.55m shark’s body cavity was uterus. She was carrying 8 pups, 4 female and 4 male, all around 33cm in length. We eventually found the hook, which had punctured through her oesophagus, worked into her pericardial cavity, and pierced the left side of her heart. It is impossible to tell which of these injuries killed her first.
A mass loss of life like this feels overwhelming when you extrapolate it to all the world’s beaches, especially when you consider how this pales in significance to some of the horrors happening in the offshore fishing fleets. It is legal in