Start A Petition
Group Discussions
Shark Tournaments Target Threatened Species
12 years ago

Ocean City Shark Tournament Celebrates Cruelty to Sharks

May 30, 2007

The 2006 Ocean City Shark Tournament.

Ocean City, Md. prides itself on being "East Coast's Finest Family Resort." But every summer, it hosts an event that undermines that wholesome image: the Ocean City Shark Tournament. The 27th annual tournament will be held June 14-16. 

A number of recently released documentaries, including "Sharkwater" and "Shark: Mind of a Demon," have focused attention on the plight of sharks across the globe. The films revealed that shark populations are being severely depleted by over-fishing. 

Blue, mako and thresher sharks—all species targeted by the Ocean City Shark Tournament—face serious survival threats.

Yet visiting some coastal towns across the North America during the summer months, you would hardly know that these magnificent ocean predators are in such a critical state. Dozens of shark killing tournaments are attended by thousands of people in seaside communities. 

Cruelty Not Family-Friendly

Observers from The HSUS who attended the 2006 Ocean City Shark Tournament documented sharks—some still alive—being hauled upon docks, weighed, and dismembered. Children were encouraged to stand or sit near the front of the tournament weigh-in station so they didn't miss any of the gruesome spectacle. A dismembered shark head was plopped down in front of a group of children, who were then encouraged to laugh over the notion of rubbing the shark's blood into their hair. 

Nothing could be less educational or more misleading about responsible attitudes toward the ocean ecosystem than the cheers and jeers that greet the display and awarding of prize money for the biggest dead shark in each of multiple categories.

Tournaments Contribute to Sharks' Decline

Most species likely to be caught in the Ocean City Shark Tournament are the subject of significant international conservation concern. 

The prize-winning sharks in the 2005 and 2006 Ocean City Shark Tournaments were all either mako, blue or thresher sharks. The Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), an international scientific organization, has raised the level of concern for thresher and mako sharks to "vulnerable," which is defined as "threatened with global extinction." The IUCN also found that blue sharks had declined 50-70 percent in the North Atlantic. 

It is not too late to end this bloody spectacle. Recently Destin, Fla,, decided to hold a celebration of sharks rather than a killing tournament. Tell Ocean City's Mayor, Richard W. Meehan, and the Worcester County Government that Ocean City should put a halt to its tournament as well. Let them know that Ocean City should be known as a family-friendly vacation spot, not the ugliness of a shark killing contest.

Click on the image below to view video :

 Tell the Mayor of Ocean City and the County Commissioners to Stop the Ocean City Shark Tournament.

12 years ago

"Crown Jewel" of Shark Tournaments Faces Local, HSUS Opposition

May 30, 2007

The HSUSShark hunts target imperiled shark species such as the blue.On June 15-16, the Long Island village of Montauk will host the 21st Star Island Annual Shark Tournament, sponsored by the Star Island Yacht Club and Marina (which also sponsors the annual Star Island Mako/Thresher Mania tournament). 

The competition, which its sponsor has dubbed the "Crown Jewel" of shark tournaments, is known in the shark hunting community for the extravagant prizes awarded for killing the largest sharks. In 2006, 237 boats and more than 1,400 fishermen competed for cash, trophies, and other prizes totaling beyond $725,000.

Tournament Targets Threatened Species

The shark species targeted by the tournament are all suffering serious population declines. Last year the principal prize-winning sharks were thresher sharks, which The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has recently added to its Red List of Threatened Species in the category of "threatened with global extinction."

The other two species on last year's tally of "winners" were blue and mako sharks, both of whose populations have declined over the last 20 years—the blue by 50 to 70 percent in the North Atlantic.

"Targeting these fragile populations is grievously irresponsible act," said HSUS Senior Vice President for Wildlife and Habitat Protection, John  Grandy. "With the survival of many shark species around the globe in jeopardy because of over-fishing and other wasteful human activities, it is our responsibility to work to safeguard sharks, not to exploit them for gruesome entertainment."

Calling for Reprieve

In a letter sent May 22, The HSUS asked Bill McGintee, the Easthampton Town Supervisor (Montauk is located within Easthampton), and the town council members to discontinue the Star Island Shark Tournament and other Montauk shark hunts "for the sake of the sharks themselves and the sake of East Hampton, Long Island and their values."

The HSUS is urging local and marina officials to cancel the tournament. If it goes forward, The HSUS will stage a demonstration to educate the public about the irresponsibility of  holding the tournament at a time when shark populations are in peril. The HSUS, in a joint effort with the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, will also fly banners during the tournament and run advertisements in local newspapers.

What You Can Do

  1. Contact Easthampton Town Supervisor, Bill McGintee, and urge him to put an end to the Star Island Shark Tournament and all other shark hunts in Montauk. 

    William McGintee, East Hampton Town Supervisor
    159 Pantigo Rd.
    East Hampton, NY
    Fax: 631-324-2789

  2. Attend the demonstration at the Star Island Shark Tournament
    Date: Saturday, June 16, 2007
    Time:  4 p.m.-6 p.m.
    Location: Intersection of West Lake Drive and Star Island Drive, Montauk, NY 11954 (click here for a map)  
    Sponsors: The Humane Society of the United States and East Hampton Group for Wildlife
    For more information, contact Andrea at .
12 years ago

Destin, Fla. Shark Hunt: CANCELLED

March 15, 2007

WASHINGTON – In a break for sharks living off the coast of Destin, Fla. the Destin History and Fishing Museum has voted unanimously to discontinue the Destin Deep Water Shark Tournament. The Humane Society of the United States applauds the decision and urges other communities to take similar steps to end shark tournaments.

"We commend the Destin Board members for being open to change and for voting to end the tournament," said Dr. John Grandy, senior vice president for wildlife and habitat protection for The Humane Society of the United States. "Shark tournaments are destructive killing contests that breed disrespect for these beleaguered animals. We hope other coastal communities will recognized the plight of sharks and follow Destin's progressive lead."

Over the past year, staffers from The HSUS met with Destin officials to discuss the effects the cruel tournaments have on shark populations. Citizens, including M.C. Davis and Gail Powell, urged The HSUS to take action and supported the effort.

Shark killing contests target members of already imperiled populations of slow breeding and ecologically important shark species, and encourage negative perceptions of sharks and their environment.

The HSUS offered to work with Destin officials to set up a Shark Celebration in town this summer in place of the tournament.


  • The World Conservation Union (IUCN) released an updated listing of species of concern in 2006. Of the 547 species of sharks and rays evaluated, the IUCN lists 19 as critically endangered and 25 as endangered.
  • Fully one fifth of all sharks and rays are considered to be threatened with extinction, and almost 100 others have insufficient information to evaluate their status.
  • Sharks are long lived. Like whales, they are slow to reproduce and have very few young.
  • At least 73 species of sharks inhabit the waters of the U.S. east coast, including the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
12 years ago

Sharks on the Shelf: Shark Products

Dried shark meat snacks for sale at a Bangkok airport.
Victor Wu

How some of the world's most ancient and magnificent animals wind up in your home.

Sharks are killed for many reasons. Their largely undeserved reputation as man eaters has sparked an entire industry devoted to catching them for sport. Sharks are also targets of intensive commercial fisheries around the globe. In addition, they are the accidental bycatch of fisheries that target other large fish such as swordfish and tuna. A variety of species of ray, which are related to sharks, are also caught by commercial fisheries. Sharks caught both as bycatch and as target species wind up being sold in a variety of forms.

Shark Meat

While the meat of some sharks and rays, such as makos, dogfish and skate, is sold for human consumption, the meat of most species of sharks and rays is not eaten in the developed world. Shark meat may be sold under the name of the shark from which it came (for example, blackened mako) but it is often disguised. For example, shark meat is sometimes called "flake" and may be sold as fish and chips in restaurants. Most environmental organizations and aquaria (e.g., Monterey Bay Aquarium) advise against eating shark meat because of conservation concern for most species.  But even consumers who avoid eating shark meat may be intentionally or unintentionally contributing to the wholesale killing of sharks through consumption of other, commercially valuable parts of the shark

Shark Fins

Popular in East Asia, shark fins are considered a delicacy and shark fin soup can sell for as much as $100 per bowl. This has given rise to the particularly wasteful practice of "finning", where the shark's fins are removed and the remainder of the shark thrown back into the sea.. Frequently alive when finned, these animals die an agonizing death. It has been estimated that, around the world, tens of millions of sharks die in this way every year. Some countries, including the United States, have banned the practice.

A bowl of soup containing a whole shark fin in Thailand. Victor Wu

Shark Skin

The skin of sharks and rays is made of fine scales known as denticles. Its primary use is in leather products. Shark skins are tanned in the same way as the skin of most terrestrial animals such as cows. The United States, northern Europe and Japan are major markets for shark skin.  It is used in the manufacture of luxury items including boots and shoes, handbags, wallets and purses, belts, watch straps, holsters and for ornamentation. According to the United Nations, tiger, lemon, dusky, nurse, sandbar, porbeagle, shortfin mako, scalloped hammerhead and bull sharks are most often used in the manufacture of leather goods

Shark Cartilage

The skeleton of a shark is comprised of cartilage, not bone. There are unsubstantiated claims that shark cartilage has curative and/or preventative powers in a variety of minor and major ailments.  It has been used for everything from acne, asthma and eczema, to life-threatening diseases such as AIDS and cancer.  The cartilage is sold powdered or in capsule or tablet form.  Trade in shark cartilage is widespread and poorly documented. The major producing and consuming countries are the USA, Japan, Australia and India, with growing markets in Europe and other industrialized countries. Companies in the United States market shark cartilage to over 35 other countries.

The cartilage of blue sharks is considered to be among the highest in quality because it contains larger quantities of chondroitin, but cartilage of a variety of both deep sea and coastal tropical sharks is used to manufacture products containing shark cartilage.

12 years ago

Shark Liver Oil

While the market for shark cartilage is fairly large in the developed world, the market for shark liver oil is far more widespread.  Unlike most other fish, sharks lack a swim bladder. Instead, their large livers are saturated with oils that help provide them with buoyancy. Rich in Vitamins A and D, omega-3 fatty acids and alkylglycerols, which have immune system enhancing properties, shark liver oil also contains pristane, squalene, triglycerides, glycerol ethers, and fatty alcohols. Squalene is among the most widely used components of the oil. It is used internationally in cosmetics and as a lubricant.  It is also sold as a non-proven cure for cancer, and to treat arthritis, psoriasis and other skin disorders. Although most Americans don't realize it, shark liver oil is widely used in anti-hemorrhoidal ointments. Most notably, it is used in Preparation H, which is widely used in the United States and distributed internationally. Shark liver oil is obtained from sharks living in deep, cold water. The species most often targeted for their oil include blue sharks, gulper sharks, basking sharks and tope sharks.

Other Non-food Products

Shark teeth and jaws are sold as ornaments and souvenirs, with the jaws of larger sharks, such as mako and great white, being the most marketable. Small sharks may be used for bait. By-products of shark fishing are used to manufacture food for farmed fish and shrimp; and to make "fish meal" which is used as a fertilizer or in animal feed.

Sharks Belong in the Sea

Virtually all large shark species are in steep decline as a result of poorly managed domestic and international fisheries. There are few products made from sharks for which some other ingredient cannot be substituted. Its time we started valuing the contribution that sharks make to healthy ocean ecosystems rather than simply trying to maximize their commercial value.  You can show that you care about the survival of shark species by avoiding products made from sharks.

For a copy of this fact sheet, download the PDF.

Dying for a Bowl of Soup: The Global Scandal of Shark Finning Questions and Answers on Shark Finning Shark Finning Sharks

12 years ago
Very nasty indeed.
12 years ago
Yes....Quite....Thank you , Andy .
12 years ago

I saw "Sharkwater" - powerfull.

Action taken.

This post was modified from its original form on 01 Jun, 8:15
12 years ago
Yeah . I just got through watching an interview with the guy who put the thing together . Amazing....What he went through to get the thing out there...but then , I suppose , with something like this , you've got to take risks to make people aware . I'll definately be buying this when it comes out on dvd . Inspirational .
12 years ago

On a much more positive, encouraging and hopeful note....:


The young Press Release: White Shark Tag Reveals Key Data

12 years ago

Sorry . That didn't come through quite as expected . Just follow the link . It'll take you there.

This post was modified from its original form on 01 Jun, 12:37
12 years ago
Sent a letter yesterday asking that the Ocean City Tournament be stopped...Got these responses so far :

This is a state consideration, particularly Department of Natural Resources. 

Virgil Shockley

Auto response from one James Berlin read :  Hello . I am unavailable to read your message at this time.

Well, I thanked Mr. Shockley for his advice and sent a touched-up form of the HSUS recommended letter to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources :

" I am writing in regards to the Ocean City 27th Annual Shark Tournament that is to be held on the 14-16th of this month . I ask that this not be allowed to take place as the undeniably cruel killing methods used and the gory displays of shark corpses on the docks of Ocean City are appalling. Species likely to be caught in the Ocean City Shark Tournament--including mako, thresher and blue sharks--are the subject of significant international conservation concern. The population of these species cannot be sustained as their sexual maturity, birth rate and gestation period is considerably slow and extensive. Moreover , sharks are vital to the marine ecosystem and should therefore be protected , not hunted and killed for sport . I ask that you take this into serious consideration and I thank you for your time and attention."

Hopefully , I'll be getting a positive response....or at least SOME form of a response....

This post was modified from its original form on 02 Jun, 10:22
12 years ago

No response yet . Oh, well . It's to be expected . I'm sure mine is not the first complaint they've read regarding this issue .

In the meantime.....:

Summer Time Is Dangerous for North American Sharks

June 4, 2007

The HSUSShark hunts target imperiled shark species such as the blue.

It happens every year: The weather warms and people flock to beaches, entering the waters that are home that renowned predator, the shark. And when sharks and humans interact, the encounters often turn deadly—for the sharks, that is.

Shark populations around the world are in jeopardy. According to the latest reports, at least one fifth of all shark and ray species are threatened with extinction, primarily because of overfishing.

“For most of human history, sharks have been seen as a threat to us…. Only recently are we beginning to see we're a threat to them," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries David Balton recently told The Washington Post.

Misunderstood "Monsters"

But sharks' reputation as unrelenting killers makes it difficult for most people to comprehend the species' vulnerability to human depredation. If sharks are to survive, the public must relearn what it thinks it knows about these deceptively powerful creatures. As Jean-Michel Cousteau put it, "Now, more than ever, two myths must be laid to rest. One, sharks are not mindless predators nor sinister man-eaters, and two, the oceans are not full of sharks."

Cruel Contests

In shark killing tournaments, individuals compete for prizes by catching the largest or the most sharks in a set period of time. Fishermen hook and gaff sharks, haul them onto docks—sometimes while still alive—weigh, and dismember them while a crowd cheers each fresh kill.

Now, more than ever, two myths must be laid to rest. One, sharks are not mindless predators nor sinister man-eaters, and two, the oceans are not full of sharks.
              —Jean-Michel Cousteau

The "pay-off" can be substantial: at Montauk's Annual Festival, more than $725,000 in prizes was distributed in 2006.

Such bloody spectacles are a "spasm of macho nonsense" said author Peter Benchley following the release of his novel "Jaws." Benchley, whose book tapped into our seemingly primordial terror of sharks, emerged as a shark advocate. In a 2002 National Geographic interview, he spoke against mass shark killing: "There are too many fishermen with too much modern gear chasing too few fish…. It's a horrible situation, and there is very little shark management around the world."

Tournaments Target Threatened Species

Still, all through the summer, coastal communities in both the United States and Canada continue to host shark killing tournaments, some of which are rebroadcast on cable networks as sport. The most common targets of these shark hunts are blue, shortfin mako and thresher sharks.

In February, the IUCN reclassified threshers and shortfin makos as "vulnerable" to extinction. Over the past 20 years, the populations of blue and mako sharks in the North Atlantic have dropped by 50 to 70 percent.

One Community Says No

Some communities are rejecting the shark tournaments, choosing instead to celebrate sharks.

In March, Destin, Fla, changed its mind about its shark hunt after photographs of a violently mutilated hammerhead and a dead pregnant tiger shark exposed the tournament's cruelty and waste. HSUS Senior Vice President for Wildlife and Habitat Protection, John W. Grandy, worked with the town to eliminate the tournament. "Instead of holding festivals to promote the brutal killing of these magnificent creatures, we encourage communities to create festivals that exalt sharks' beauty and importance to the ocean ecosystem"

12 years ago

Cousteau: It's a Shark's LIfe

June 11, 2007

©Tom Ordway/Ocean Futures SocietyJean-Michel Cousteau in his ocean habitat.

By John Balzar

With his head of shimmering silver hair and his sleek blue dive suit, he looks every bit the WaterMan.

In fact, he is.

By lineage and by inclination, wet or dry, Jean-Michel Cousteau has become more closely identified than any other human with the world's oceans and the creatures of the deep.

Awhile back, I had the privilege of diving with Cousteau in the warm, crystalline waters of Fiji. We spent 10 days exploring the brilliant underwater reefs, the swaying soft-coral canyons and the tidal currents that swept across the lagoons of this Pacific fantasyland.

Sharks are scavengers. Along with other creatures, they keep the oceans clean. Their role is absolutely critical. In eliminating them, we are hurting ourselves. 
                —Jean-Michel Cousteau

When we surfaced, Jean-Michel would talk about what we had seen. He wore an expression of perpetual amazement at having to reconcile the beauty and seeming abundance with an awful truth—as vast as the oceans are, they are so frightfully fragile.

His metaphor of choice was the great predator of the sea, the shark. What creature was stronger? What animal anywhere was so indomitable? But just look, he would say. Look at what is happening to the great sharks. We humans are killing them off—11,000 of them an hour, around the clock, 365 days a year.

Along with Cousteau's Ocean Futures Society, The Humane Society of the United States is a leader in the campaign to change American perceptions of these mighty creatures—in hopes of saving them before it's too late. In particular, The HSUS demands an end to the grotesque spectacle of shark fishing tournaments. What could be worse than driving majestic animals to the brink of extinction and then gloating about it at dockside ceremonies?

I recently spoke with Jean-Michel about the plight of the shark: 

John Balzar/The HSUS: Sharks are in jeopardy. How serious is the threat?

Ocean Futures SocietyCousteau has created
two films on sharks.

Cousteau: It's larger than people believe. Sharks by the millions are being killed for nothing more than their fins, their bleeding bodies thrown back into the ocean alive. It's a moral crisis. And in my opinion, it's criminal.

Sharks are scavengers. Along with other creatures, they keep the oceans clean. Their role is absolutely critical. In eliminating them, we are hurting ourselves, of course. It's another big step in the destruction of our oceans.

HSUS: Sharks, of course, still have an image problem don't they?

Cousteau: After "Jaws," Peter Benchley spent the rest of his life trying to undo the picture of sharks that he created. He failed, just as I have failed.

Again, I say, it's not just for the sharks. It's for us.

HSUS: Fishing tournaments that target sharks seem particularly abhorrent. How do you view these bloody spectacles?

Cousteau: They should be illegal. Period.

Think of it like an airliner. You can remove a rivet and the plane still flies. You can remove another and another. But some point when you are sitting in your seat flying along, the whole plane is going to fall apart.

Nature doesn't care. There will be a nature after the airplane blows apart. But will there be an us?

You cannot keep taking rivets out like this.

HSUS: You have made two films, "Sharks 3D" and "Sharks at Risk," that seek to change minds about sharks. This has long been a goal of The HSUS and its Protect Sharks Campaign. How much progress are we making in replacing fear with concern?

Cousteau: I don't want to be overly cynical. But people with jobs and schedules and commutes, we cannot count on them.

We need to focus on young people. That's part of the answer, and I know that it works.

Another part: grandparents. They are relatively young still today. Some have resources. All of them have something they can dispense in great quantities: love for their grandchildren and concern for the world we're leaving them.

Read more about Jean-Michel and his work at

12 years ago

I appologise for the graphic nature of the following video. I was just so repulsed and angered by it that I felt it had to be shown . This footage was taken last month (June 20-21) at Martha's Vineyard :

12 years ago

A word from the president/CEO of the HSUS on the waste of shark finning :

August 09, 2007
Shark on the Menu Puts Species in Peril

I'll admit that when I swim in the ocean, I have thought more than a few times about the presence of sharks. I guess it's like walking in grizzly bear country or in mountain lion habitat. In these environs, we are not top dog, and it's human nature to have a pang of fear.

© Mass. Dept. of Fisheries

But, as a general matter, these creatures have a lot more to fear from us. Sharks especially. There are a few human victims each year of shark attacks. But there are more than 100 million successful human attacks on sharks.

To meet the demand for shark fin soup—a few strands of shark collagen in chicken or fish broth—tens of millions of sharks are killed annually in oceans around the world. Reported in writings of the Ming Dynasty, shark fin soup was once limited to Chinese emperors and the very elite. But since the 1980s the popularity of this delicacy, which can sell for as much as $100 per bowl, has grown in China and Asia.

The sharks’ fins are cut off when the fish are still alive; then the mutilated sharks are thrown back into the sea to perish.

If a fishing crew takes a whole shark, the boat soon runs out of freezer space and fishing must stop. If the crew takes only the valuable fins, dries them, and throws the rest of the shark back to sea, it can carry on fishing, killing a mammoth number of sharks.

For a time, the only country that required all sharks be landed whole was Costa Rica. We've advocated that other countries follow suit, and recently El Salvador and Colombia both enacted “fins-attached” legislation. We are pushing the United Nations to adopt a resolution that requires sharks be landed whole.

Here at home, if you see shark fin on a restaurant menu, please speak with the management and ask them to stop serving it. Also, here at home, we are opposing shark killing contests. We need not make victims of these creatures to satisfy our egos or our appetites.

12 years ago

Yes, that's disgusting. It needs to be stopped.

This thread is archived. To reply to it you must re-activate it.