For Science or Selfies?

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For generations, surf fishermen have been landing sharks on New York’s beaches as bycatch, but a new generation of surf fishermen is targeting sharks, posting the process on social media and tagging the predators in the name of science and conservation. Whether the process is beneficial, however, is controversial and unclear.

A recent New York Times article tells the story of two hardcore Long Island shark fishermen, Vinny Cericola and Chris Stefanou, who are devoted to catching sharks in the surf. They tag and release the sharks as part of a citizen science project run by NOAA, but some experts say the sharks are more likely to be harmed than helped when they’re landed on the beach.

Others argue that the fishermen are bringing attention to the plight of sharks, which are being killed at the rate of about 10 million per year worldwide. One New York Times reader, michjas from Phoenix, Arizona, says in the reader comments: “Like it or not, the fact is that nobody is bringing attention to these sharks more than Mr. Stefanou. Many will learn about an endangered species that they previously knew nothing about. You can’t promote a species that no one knows about.”

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