Monday, 23 March 2009

Sharks, starfish, Baba Dioum, and I

Senegalese poet and naturalist Baba Dioum said:
'In the end, we will protect only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.

We will understand only what we are taught.'

For quite a while now I have been quoting this wise man without knowing it, and now that I know I was I am again so happy for collective consciousness or whatever you want to call it!
Because isn't it very true???
Very very true... when it gets to sharks... misunderstood- therefore unloved- thereby
unprotected- and so killed. The finning of sharks for shark fin soup claims up to 73 million sharks per year ( yet the numbers are hard to estimate, so I might be wrong... but what upsets me also is the killing of sharks for 'trophies' or 'acclaim'.

Recently two such events have made the news- 13 year old Aidan Murray Medley kills a bull shark (for Fun!? Fame!?) and a while back spearfisherman Craig Clausen kills a tiger shark, in self defence, he claims... yet it is clear to see on the footage that this is a very debatable point. (Read more about these stories on OceanicDreams)

Find the love, Aidan, find the love!!!

Now I had the misfortune to be pounced upon (by somebody who does not know me) for caring about these 'insignificant' incidents, as opposed to the massacres through finning and by-catch. But seriously, do we have to rate and ration our caring?


My dad used to tell me the story of the starfish on the beach. Millions of starfish have washed up on a beach and a man walking along the beach sees another man pick up a starfish and throw it far back into the ocean. Despondently he walks up to the thrower 'There are too many' he says, 'what difference does it make?!' And the starfish thrower replies, 'For that one, it made all the difference'.

So NO, I will not only care about the massacres and the statistics and I sincerely hope my love and my heart remain big enough to keep caring, keep understanding, keep sharing knowledge... so that others can learn to love and thereby protect.

... all the difference...


  1. Thanks for voicing your thoughts. I found your blog via your comments on Da Wolf's blog (Oceanic Dreams); I'll check-in for more wisdom from time to time....

  2. totally love the starfish story, may have heard it from my dad before:).
    Here's to making all the difference, be it to one or to many

  3. How very true. I often ask my self "Where's the love?" because today lots of other interests often rule. Keep spreadin' it!

  4. nice starfish story :)

  5. How frustrating... I am a biologist who used to study sharks. But more than once we had to sack projects because the animals were hopelessly overfished. I remember how at my first scientific conference Bob Hueter showed a slide of catch numbers by recreational fishermen before and after the release of Stephen Spielberg's "Jaws". The numbers sky-rocketed after the release. everybody wanted their picture taken, just like little Aidan... Sad, people haven't changed much. Finning and habitat distruction, including overfishing of species elasmobranchs feed on, certainly has the biggest influence on population numbers, but that doesn't mean we should ignore recreational fishing. One thing that has become quite successful is to convince recreational fishermen to tag sharks after catching them and then releasing them again. This way, they still have their "fun" fishing for sharks and they help scientists learn more about these absolutely wonderful creatures.