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Monday, August 2, 2021

Sharks add more zest to TV than to soup

The curtain has fallen on another season of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” and summer beachgoers are left once again with nightmarish thoughts about what might be lurking beyond the breakers. Those TV images come with a caveat: While encounters with toothy terrors of the deep do occur, their odds measure more diminutive than a minnow. If Americans hold that their extremities are not to be nibbled, then reason says the same should apply to shark fins.

A non-aggression pact is in order. Toward that end, members of the U.S. Senate voted last month in favor of the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act of 2021 as part of the broader U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021. Before heading off for a beach week, the House should take the plunge and do the same. After all, those eating machines are performing as Nature designed them, and they shouldn’t all be blamed when one of their species samples one of ours.

The congressional act would prohibit the possession, purchase, sale, and transport of shark fins and products containing shark fins, except for specific dogfish fins and other fins harvested with a permit. The maximum civil penalty includes a stiff $100,000 fine for each offense or the fair market value of fins involved.

There is no accounting for taste, it is said, and certain cultures, primarily Asian, consider shark fin soup a delicacy. The fishing trade currently results in the capture of an estimated 73 million sharks worldwide. After their fins are amputated, the fish are thrown back, likely to die from their wounds. According to the journal Nature, oceanic sharks and rays have experienced a 71 percent population decline since 1970, threatening them with extinction.

“Shark Week 2021” took up for humanity’s undersea adversaries with “Fin” as a sort of counterpoint to “Jaws,” the 1975 film that still leaves beachgoers shivering in their swimsuits when they wade into the ocean. The fresh episode details the gruesome trade in shark parts, leaving no question about which population suffers more from watery meet-ups.

For their part, Americans prefer to associate sharks with gripping TV entertainment rather than culinary nourishment. Discovery’s shark programming, which ended Sunday, also included creative celebrity-and-fish fusion programming. In “Sharkadelic Summer 2,” viewers watched Snoop Dogg break down the year’s close encounters with seaborne maws – from the safety of terra firma.

“Expedition Unknown: Shark Trek” found “Captain Kirk” William Shatner risk his 90-year-old neck while swimming with sharks in the Bahamas. “I am deathly afraid of sharks,” he admitted but managed to hold himself together while diving among tiger sharks, infamous for their tendency to taste humankind. Actress Tiffany Haddish and country singer Brad Paisley made waves in other segments.

Fairness says if beachgoers expect to splash in the waves free of fear for their feet, then sharks deserve to ply their watery world without losing their fins.

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