Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Is Tagging of Wildlife Always Justified? What If Tagging Studies Disturb Animals So Much That They Die or Leave Their Nests?
I wrote in a previous post that I had seen great hammerhead sharks at Bimini with tags all over them. I wrote:
The older hammerhead sharks all had numerous tags on them; one or two had 4" squares of flesh ripped off behind their dorsal, probably from "researchers" who had caught them and glued tags on them, which then ripped off. I used to study marine biology, even was in the PhD program at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. But I am now sickened and opposed to the constant, unending tagging of large marine animals.
I went through my video footage and have posted a couple of frame grabs showing one of the sharks. I wish I had a better shot of the wound of the shark, looking down on it.
Since that post, I've received a few comments from researchers.
Here's the comment from 182436hike:
"the shark he is talking about is an animal we have known for a year it has a nasty patch on his back. This animal was only tagged with a Casey external national marine fisheries service tag. That would never have produced such a mark. My guess is prop scar turned bad due to shark suckers. I guess this guy had no idea great hammers are endangered and the station founded the (dive) site."
Here are my thoughts on this comment:
The open wound on the shark was rectangular, with straight edges. I have strong doubts that a prop would have caused such a rectangular wound, with such straight edges. As for the comment that the station found the dive site -- great, but what does that have to do with the issue of tagging and this rectangular wound? Same with the issue of great hammers being endangered. OK, so great hammers are endangered. Does that mean they need to get stuck with three or more tags? There's really no other way to count and identify them? What about photo studies, like Rachel Graham suggests (her comment below).
I always hear researchers say things like "the only way we can get rid of lionfish in the Caribbean is by studying them." Really? I doubt that any amount of study of the lionfish population in the Caribbean is going to stop their spread. If you really want to get rid of all lionfish in the Caribbean, then just put out the word that they taste great and they will help with erections, cure cancer, etc to the 1.3 billion people in China. Those lionfish will be quickly exterminated, believe you me. So will all the lionfish in the Pacific too. Yes, I am of Chinese ancestry and yes, I am opposed to shark fin soup as well as a lot of other things.
As for tagging: Like anything else, too much of something can make that -- not a good thing. My strong opinion is that there's been too much tagging now. The acclaimed underwater filmmaker, photographer, and writer Howard Hall wrote a good piece about the subject of tagging at:
Here's the concluding paragraph and a later comment from Mr. Hall after his article: