NOAA Program: Kill The Sharks To Save The Baby Monk Seals


Killing 18 galapagos sharks near the remote French Frigate Shoals in seven weeks isn’t the easiest of tasks, especially when you're casting a fishing line from shore that’s baited with a large tuna head. You never know what you might get.

And it wasn't galapagos sharks.

Eleven researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spent part of their summer in the nature preserve trying to kill the species they say is the main culprit in the demise of baby monk seals. They did catch some tiger and white tip sharks, which they threw back.

NOAA's shark eradication program, with this year's 18-shark target, was approved in March by state officials.

“You can look at it two ways,” said Sam Gon, a senior scientist and cultural advisor at Hawaii’s Nature Conservancy. “Either they aren’t very good at getting sharks or they are being very careful about which sharks they pursue. It’s probably a little bit of both.”

Shark killers might not be the term that comes to mind when you think of NOAA scientists, whose task it is to protect and conserve marine life. And the practice that dates back to 2000, has raised concerns locally.

“It’s complex, it’s not comfortable and you are pitting one native species against another,” said Gon.

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