To launch Seamonster’s brand spanking new Book Hook, I chat with journalist, author, and shark enthusiast Juliet Eilperin about her recent book Demon Fish. In it she explores the world of sharks, the fishers who catch them for food and for fun, the campaigners trying to persuade people to kick the shark-fin habit, and the scientists working to understand more about their mysterious lives.
HS: Why sharks?
JE: I became intrigued by the ocean, which remains unexplored territory to a great extent. So writing about sharks was a way to investigate the sea, as well as our relationship to it.
HS: Which is your favorite cartoon shark?
JE: Sherman in “Sherman’s Lagoon,” the cartoon strip by Jim Toomey. He’s funny, adorable, and teaches kids about the ocean. You can’t get any better than that.
HS: Here at Seamonster we love the description Enric Sala gives in your book of Kingman Reef as ‘Landscape of fear’ – there are so many sharks still living there, the rest of the fish hide away out of sight.
Of all the things you discovered about sharks while writing the book, what surprised you the most?
JE: The most surprising revelation I had in the course of writing the book was learning about our evolutionary connections to shark. I learned from reading Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish that the muscles we use to chew and to talk, as well as the bones in our inner ears, come from sharks. That’s extraordinary.
HS: I recently had the pleasure of meeting my shark hero, Genie Clark. Who’s your shark hero and have you met them?
JE: There are so many! I love Genie Clark, whom I met several years ago. She’s a pioneer in the field, especially for women.
Sarah Fowler, who is one of the leaders of the shark specialist team for the International Fund for Conservation of Nature, has a dry sense of humor and does terrific research.
There’s a crew of younger shark researchers who are passionate about both their academic investigations as well as making sure sharks stay around, including Demian Chapman and Neil Hammerschlag, and I admire them for it. The one shark hero I’ve yet to meet is Shelley Clarke, who’s done pioneering work on the shark fin trade, so I’d really like to sit down and talk with her.
HS: Which do you think is worse to eat: bluefin or sharkfin?
JE: That’s almost impossible to answer, of course. I’d almost have to say bluefin, such it’s a species that’s under such intense pressure it may be even more imperiled than sharks. But hopefully, no one would eat either one of them.
HS: Is there an awesome shark story you found after the book went to print that you wish you could have included?
JE: There’s been a wave of shark fin bans that have spread throughout the U.S., passing in Oregon, Washington and California since my manuscript was finished. I wish I could have included them, since it’s the good news story about what’s happening with sharks.
Keep reading to find out what Juliet would do if we gave her a magic shark wand…
In the first of a new series of Seamonster-meets-author interviews, we’re chatting with Juliet Eilperin, author of Demon Fish, travels through the hidden world of sharks.
Let’s take a quick break from the questions to take a look at some cool pictures of Juliet and a little baby lemon shark in Bimini lagoon in the Bahamas – never let it be said that writing books is an easy ride… (photos by Michael Lionstar).
HS: Right back to the questions, where were we…? Oh right, magic wands.
If we gave you a magic wand that let you reveal one shark secret, which would you pick?
JE: I’d like to know where many of these species reproduce and give birth, since that remains one of the great mysteries.
HS: You spent time with the controversial sport fisherman, Mark ‘the shark’ Quartiano. Did you like him?
JE: The interesting thing about Mark Quartiano is he clearly is comfortable at sea, and thinks about its future. He also has been nothing but nice to me, even though he knew all along I wouldn’t treat him with kid gloves.
But one of the things I was struck by, especially the second time I went out with him, was how he feels a tremendous pressure to deliver for his customers. That’s only going to be more difficult as shark populations decline.
HS: Killing hammerhead and tiger sharks in Florida state waters is soon to be outlawed – isn’t that going to make business difficult for sport fishing charters (such as Quartiano’s)?
JE: That should make it more difficult for him, without question, and he fought against the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservations Commission’s ruling. But the new measure only applies to state waters, so Quartiano can simply travel farther out and fish for sharks. Still, that will take a little more time, and could cause him a headache with customers.
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