A photo of a single thresher shark being served for dinner at a resort is making the rounds among shark conservation activists. The photo, shown on the right, has been shared more than 12,000 times. A petition written in response to the image (in French) has over 1,000 signatures. The story has even made it into the mainstream media. The original caption refers to this scene as “shameful and disgraceful”, while follow-up comments refer to it as “shocking,” “sickening,” “disgusting,” “beyond words,” “shameful,” and “barbaric.” 12,000 shares and a 1,000 signature petition is significantly more outrage than I’ve ever seen for any issue involving a single individual shark. Why, exactly, are activists so upset about it?
It can’t simply be reaction to the death of a single shark. If you believe that no sharks should be eaten ever (or that no animals should be eaten ever), that’s a perfectly valid belief system. You should be (and likely are) aware, however, that the overwhelming majority of the world, including almost all governments, the majority of the scientific community, and many NGOs, completely disagree with you. People have encountered photos of individual sharks being killed before, or pictures of sharks on a menu or for sale in grocery stores, and not reacted this strongly.
It likely isn’t the species of shark in question, either. This shark is either a pelagic thresher or a common thresher, and while both are considered Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List, they’re common components of shark fisheries. Thresher fisheries in U.S. waters are considered well managed (and that population is only “Near-Threatened”). Some of the comments say that “sharks are an endangered species,” which is nonsense, as there are over 500 species of sharks and most are not even Threatened. Regardless, a single individual animal doesn’t impact the population in any significant way.