A Dying Shark

For a generation that was bred on a staple movie diet of ‘Jaws’, the Hollywood scare epic; sharks have come to signify everything dangerous and loathsome. The fact that as one of the apex sea predators, they have a significant contribution to the eco system; has been completely lost on most of the people on this planet. After all, movies score far more than knowledge and facts.

To me, sharks were a far away danger, lurking in movies, internet videos, and books. However, when I did become a recreational scuba diver, the childhood image of sharks was driven away by observing fish behavior in the oceans. I did manage to ‘meet’ a whale shark, which is not the archetypal fire breathing monster shark that one would like to expect. The fish in question is a gentle docile giant. I did not encounter white tips or dozens of any other types of this species in my  dives. However, scuba divers who have encountered them have told me that they are usually shy and timid, like most underwater creatures.

This article is not a leisurely rant on sharks but rather about a more pressing issue, the recent declaration of ‘shortfin mako’, probably the fastest shark on the planet; as being endangered*.

makoShortfin mako shark — Image by Mark Conlin, SWFSC Large Pelagics Program [Public domain]

It turns out that the apex predator on this planet — the human, has been finishing off sharks at a faster rate than they can be replenished. According to some estimates, almost 90% of some shark species have been wiped out in some regions of this planet**. Sharks are killed for meat, fins, and gaming.

Shortfins can have burst speeds in excess of 70 kilometers per hour !! That is very fast when underwater. Efforts are underway to limit deep sea fishing of these fish but like in every other case, nations are mostly non-commital.

To be honest I am writing this article hoping that the shortfin mako does survive otherwise this article may be an ode to the dying shortfin mako.




Predatory Evangelism

Before getting into this controversial issue I would like to emphasise that I am not against evangelism, but it should be within the bounds of decency. A lot of Indians like me have seen evangelism of the brash American/Western sort being pushed in our faces here. This makes us uncomfortable.

For the sake of brevity, it should be plain and clear to people when others say ‘NO’ once. However, people of some faiths seldom stop at that and continue to push their agendas even going to the the extent of threatening violence and intimidation.

The recent case of an American missionary being tragically killed on an isolated island in the Andaman Island chain is the trigger for this topic. Refer Google for this, it’s a few days old. The Andaman islands have seen plenty of evangelism of the ‘forced’ kind under British rule and then voluntarily under democratic Indian administration too. The Government here has made it pretty clear that the North Sentinel Islands* in the Andamans are off limits and this is because of good reason i.e. the isolated tribe there has refused outside human contact. They have also previously attacked and killed people who tried to get friendly with them. However this loud and resonating ‘NO’ probably hits a wall with some people.

The media here has wrongly portrayed this as laxity on the part of Indian authorities. Authorities can do little when people try to sneak up to the islands behind their backs. The isolated tribe is at great risk when they do come into contact with outsiders who can carry germs and infections against which the Sentinelese do not have any immunity. But, that again doesn’t reach up to the heads of some folks.


Getting ready for scuba diving early morning, Havelock Island, Andaman

By the way, we are trying to preserve this microcosm of a prehistoric culture; by some calculations as old as 60,000 years, on the Sentinel islands. So it would be deeply appreciated if people stop being saviours and just be human instead. Also the rest of the Andaman islands are worth visiting and there are some good scuba diving spots there. I completed my SSI Open Water Scuba Diving certification from DiveIndia, Havelock island, so I can vouch for the pristine beauty of the Andamans and the excellent dive spots there.


Andaman islands from the air, on the way to Port Blair, Veer Savarkar airport. Port Blair is the administrative capital of Andaman Islands.