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Rebuttal to Shiffman and Hueter, Shark Finning Fisheries Lobbyists

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"The Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act"is considered to be vital in the fight against shark finning. Yet shark fisheries lobbyists David Shiffman and Robert Hueter are doing their best to block it. They have published a paper opposing the legislation, which has been echoed by the press in ways suggesting that banning the shark fin trade in the United States could be "bad for sharks."
But their short and vacuous paper gives only three reasons to support their position and concerns itself with the well-being of shark fisheries, not sharks.  Firstly, they state that passage of the Act will "undermine decades of progress made towards ensuring sustainable shark fisheries in the United States and around the world." But in the absence of any evidence or reasoning in support this allegation, it remains nothing more than an opinion. The statement is neither scientific nor relevant to the real issue.
The second reason given is that the legislation "will likely have…

Glenn Ashton's Review of The True Nature of Sharks

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"Occasionally a special book appears that makes you sit up and reconsider your understanding of the world, or at least a part of it. The True Nature of Sharks is such a book. It echoes the way that Diane Fossey and Jane Goodall forced us to completely reassess how we perceived the great apes, our closest relatives. While sharks may be only a very distant relative, Porcher’s book is no less revolutionary, in that it forces us to reassess how we perceive and understand sharks. Her work is instrumental in firmly shifting our understanding of sharks away from the obsolete trope of sharks as killing machines. Instead she portrays them as intelligent, predictable individual animals capable of so much more than generally assumed. "Through the ages sharks gained a largely unquestioned reputation as frightening predators just waiting to eat anything and anybody entering the watery realms. Modern history reinforced these tropes with stories of pilots and sailors being attacked during t…

Raising Shark Awareness

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My personal campaign to raise shark awareness began when the entire community of hundreds of sharks that I was studying, as animals and individuals, were finned for shark fin soup.

Sharks (and fish) had turned out to be more interesting, more varied, and in many cases, more beautiful, than the North American wildlife I had known. They were just as intelligent, and far more responsive to me. They were definitely more alert, and made decisions more quickly, than people.

Sharks were the first wild animals I had met that came to me instead of fleeing, and though I had fed the birds all my life, they never fluttered down around my shoulders when I went outside, or alighted in my hands to be stroked. But fish did.

So it is especially sad to see how these remarkable submarine animals are considered and treated in our society, as being low, cold and not even capable of suffering pain.

That is why I have been on a personal campaign ever since to improve public awareness of their true nature, and …

Why I Turned to Sharks

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I was a wildlife artist when my husband and I moved to Tahiti, so I went out each morning looking for something to paint. The fringe lagoons lay glimmering turquoise and silver under a ringing blue sky, protected by a barrier reef and sheltering an intricate lighted world that put fantasy to shame. Fish of every imaginable shape and colour gazed from the coral formations, ranged across the white sand, and travelled purposefully though the blue. There seemed to be so much life that even the water sparkled with it.
One morning I was roaming upon the barrier reef, lost in a spell. The sunshine ran in golden lines across the coral and flashed upon the fish. It was mesmerizing. When I raised my eyes, a grey shark of about my size was moving languidly towards me and all my lights went on. Everything about her was just right—her curves, her fins, her face—the inarguable shape of shark. Nothing had prepared me for the sight of that splendid creature gliding forth through the rushing landscap…

The True Nature of Sharks

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As a life long observer of wildlife, I recognized as soon as I began meeting wild sharks that their behaviour was very different from that of the mammals and birds we are more familiar with. So for fifteen years I spent most of my spare time watching them underwater to learn as much as I could about what they are like as animals and individuals. 
For seven of those years, I kept track of hundreds of individual reef sharks using a lagoon, and could recognize more than three hundred on sight. Studying them as individuals opened a new dimension on their lives, revealing their companionships, their emotional responses, and the way they socialized. These studies were supplemented by observing other species--tiger sharks, lemon sharks, and bull sharks--for shorter periods of time.
Many of the actions that sharks will take indicate that they are thinking, rather than acting on instinct alone, and it became clear that they have been badly underestimated by science. No one in the marine scie…

The Question of Consciousness

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The current science of consciousness has been widely discussed on the Internet, and considering the many claims that soon we will be blessed or damned by conscious machines, it is remarkable how little is known about it. 

The essential question involves explaining how a physical universe gives rise to non-physical intelligent awareness, and this boggles everyone, because it is explainable by no current scientific knowledge, physical or quantum.
There are various theories, two of which are considered the most promising. One, which is favoured by traditional science and supports the idea that computers could be conscious, holds that after a certain level of complexity is reached, consciousness emerges naturally, all by itself. In neurology, consciousness is always mentioned in connection with the human brain, which, of course is the most complex. Quantities of rambling text, much of it of a speculative and highly philosophical nature, have been written on the theory, includi…