Money Talks … Or Let’s Hope So

An article today from the Dodo really caught my interest, especially since most of my career has been spent in the advertising industry. The other day I talked about how signing petitions does in fact have a positive effect for many causes. What has an equally, if not bigger, effect on eliciting change is when big money is involved.

The Dodo reports that several advertisers have pulled their commercials from NBC’s show “Shark Hunters” because they are enlightened enough to see the critical damage that shows like this inflict on delicate ecosystems. It’s nice to see that these big advertisers are using their financial power to make a difference. I believe more and more advertisers will jump on board so it will be interesting to see how long it takes NBC to cancel the show.

The same method of protest worked when advertisers began to pull their commercials from the Animal Planet show “Call of the Wildman” because insiders revealed how animals were being harmed in the making of the program. So let’s hope NBC follows suit and does the right thing.

Here’s the article from The Dodo, dated today, September 3, 2014:


The list of companies to pull their advertisements during NBC Sports’ show “Sharkhunters” just got a little bit longer.

The latest brand to join the movement is Citrix, an American software company, which said in an email that “supporting the environment and our local ecosystems is important to our team as well as our corporate culture.” A spokesperson noted that no future ads for the company will appear during “Shark Hunters.” The company joins Allstate Insurance, Tripadvisor and Kingsford Charcoal, all of which have pulled their ads.

The show has incited a wave of backlash for featuring trophy fishermen who catch thresher, mako and porbeagle sharks — all of which are on the IUCN Red List as “vulnerable” — as well as blue sharks, which are considered near threatened.

During the show, fishermen compete in contests to reel in the biggest shark for a $10,000 payout. While many contend that they tag some of the sharks, making their catches worthwhile, conservationists argue that they do far more harm than good.

“The thing about these shows is that they target the animals that are already not doing well,” Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, research scientist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, told The Dodo, adding that the compounded pressures of commercial overfishing, bycatch and other factors have contributed to a global decline in sharks over the past 50 years.

Hammerschlag added it also matters which individual shark is being caught. For instance, sharks take a relatively long time to sexually mature — usually about ten years. Sharks also continue to grow their entire lives, and become more effective reproducers as they get older and larger. What’s more, older fish tend to produce larger and healthier offspring.

“So if you’re catching a shark, it makes more of a big deal if you’re catching one that’s mature,” he said. “These trophy shows target the biggest ones — meaning the mature, most reproductively active ones.”

Because the cash prize is awarded to the fisher with the biggest catch, the fishermen favor the most ecologically valuable individuals. To make matters worse, many species will either be injured or die after they are caught — then they’re thrown back in search of a bigger catch. It depends on the species, because some are more resistant to being caught than others, but for many sharks, two hours of struggling on a fishing line will usually lead to death.

All of these factors combined can spell bad things for shark populations as a whole. Recreational fishers can have massive effects on fish populations — for reference, global capture by anglers exceeds about 47 billion fish, of which about two-thirds are released. As Hammerschlag and his co-authors write in a recent paper on the subject, these catches can have a disproportionate effect on local populations, conflating the already dire outlook for sharks. They write:   

So long as there are incentives to catch the largest, oldest, most fecund [reproductive] and fittest individuals within a population, recreational fishing pressure will continue to target these fish and likely exacerbate population declines. 

Conservationists are pointing to “Shark Hunters” as a perfect example of this problem. A petition on the site calling on NBC to cancel the show has already gained over 84,000 signatures.

Both NBC and NBC Sports have not replied to repeated requests for comment. 

* * * * * * *

What are your thoughts on this issue?


6 thoughts on “Money Talks … Or Let’s Hope So

  1. That shark show does not interest me in the least so it doesn’t affect me if it’s not on the tube. The withdrawal of financial support is a powerful voice as is the infusion of big money behind a cause. Money definitely talks and somebody will always be perking up their ears.

    Tossing It Out


  2. Ugh – these types of shows are really terrible. They spread misinformation to the general public, and perpetuates the stereotype that sharks (and other predators) are evil, aggressive and should be destroyed. I don’t know how channels like the Discover Channel and Animal Planet get away with things like Shark Week and show things that are little more than fiction – what a great disservice to biodiversity, and the need to protect threatened and endangered species for their inherent value of being. 😦


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