Rosie Shark Controversy

January 11, 2012 by staff 

Rosie Shark ControversyRosie Shark Controversy, Rosie O’Donnell and her family caught huge hammerhead sharks in fishing trips off the South Florida coast. Now the TV personality is catching abuse from environmentalists, irate at the killing of ocean predators that are considered overfished around the globe. Florida banned killing them Jan. 1, long after O’Donnell’s fishing trips.

Mark “The Shark” Quartiano, the famous Miami Beach shark fishermen who guided the expeditions, recently posted a photo of O’Donnell next to a dead hammerhead on his web site as “This Month’s Celebrity Angler.” Since then, as other photos of O’Donnell shark-killing expeditions surfaced, environmentalists have attacked her via Facebook and Twitter accounts, accusing her of going after species that are struggling to survive.

“Right now sharks are the most endangered animals around,” said Erik Brush, a Sarasota marine conservationist who helped start the campaign against O’Donnell. “This is basically an endorsement. It sends the message that it’s an OK activity. And this is not an activity that we want celebrities endorsing.”

O’Donnell’s publicist did not respond to requests for comment.

Quartiano defended the trips, which took place over the past two or three years, calling O’Donnell “a great angler. She’s very conservation-minded. We’ve caught a lot of fish and released a lot of fish. We’ve also caught fish for eating and trophies.”

As for O’Donnell’s reaction to the controversy, he said “She’s amused by it. She wants me to go on her show.”

He defended killing hammerheads, saying the few caught for sport were dwarfed by the huge numbers taken by commercial fishing fleets. “These conservation guys are hitting the wrong target,” he said.

No one accuses O’Donnell of doing anything illegal. But they say a celebrity known for her philanthropic work, particularly for children, should have been aware of the conservation implications of her actions.

Samantha Whitcraft, conservation biologist with the non-profit group Shark Savers, said she contacted O’Donnell through Twitter, offering a calm, non-confrontational discussion.

“She emailed, What do you propose?” Whitcraft said. “I said I’d take to her to a shark research lab, to which I thought her response would be Hell, yeah, but I never heard anything back. To be fair, I think by the time I had reached her she had been unbelievably harassed. I saw her Twitter page and a lot of overly aggressive hazing.”

Among those criticizing O’Donnell are marine biologists, diving organizations and members of environmental groups such as Shark Savers, Planet Ocean Alliance and the Australian Anti-Shark-Finning Alliance.

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