No, harassing a shark for fun is not ethically equivalent to scientific research that helps conserve a species

Last month, I wrote an article for Scientific American that I shouldn’t have had to write. In it, I argued that riding, poking, prodding or otherwise harassing a free-swimming large predatory animal for fun is a bad idea. I do mean “argued;” believe it or not, there are people who strongly disagree with me. In my article, I was very general and diplomatic, and I took pains to avoid naming names.

However, my article was at least partially inspired by the disrespectful, potentially dangerous, and very public behavior of one person: the editor of Shark Diver magazine, Eli Martinez. Eli recently wrote an article for Medium, in which he stated that: “Look, I have no problem with touching sharks and I do not have any problem with other people touching sharks.” He also notes that ” I just think riding sharks is disrespectful to the animals .” He has also shared the following photos (and many, many more like them) on his Facebook page, photos showing behavior he does not seem to consider disrespectful.

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