Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review: Demon Fish, by Juliet Eilperin

Great book on the fish people love to hate

Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks
Pantheon; 2011


The human relationship with sharks is complex. Dangerous? Yes.  At war with the human race? If so, it's a one-sided war, and we're wiping them out.  Juliet Eilperin's book doesn't go deeply into the types and taxonomy of sharks. She's more interested in how humans relate to the 300+ species belonging to this enigmatic group. (She does relate that no fewer than 46 species have been proposed based on results of an 18-month DNA study.)  From ecotourists to shark hunters, the species Homo sapiens is the focus here.  There's a lot to learn here, and not all of it is bad.  Sport fishermen are at least aware of the issues,  scientists are pushing further in the quest to understand sharks, and tour guides have learned to make money while leaving the sharks alone. She also examines the seemingly mystical relationship of some Pacfic Islanders to their dangerous neighbors. 
The good news, though, is still outweighed by the wholesale destruction of sharks worldwide.  There are many accounts of the fishing - legal and illegal - for sharks, along with bizarre episodes such as members of the Unification Church poaching thousands of baby sharks from San Francisco Bay.  Before I read this book, I knew about the trade in shark fins, but I had no idea how damned wasteful it is: only a single rod of cartilage from the fin is even used in shark fin soup.  Her exploration of this trade, and how deeply it is ingrained in Asian cultures, is the most memorable feature of a superb, multi-faceted book that takes an original view of a long and problematic interspecies relationship. 

3 comments:

omegaman66 said...

Those suckers sure don't seem to be endangered of the Louisiana coast. Pest are everywhere. Wish they were endangered here... hahaha just kidding.

omegaman66 said...
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city said...

nice opinion. thanks for posting.