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Surfing the (Laser) Shark

This morning’s news presented two pieces of shark-related absurdity. 

First, the Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed that attempting to surf on the carcass of a shark is not a crime:

The Ministry for Primary Industries says it has found no breach of the Animal Welfare Act after complaints over a shark `surfing’ incident.

A spokesperson for MPI said the matter would not be investigated any further.

“We’ve determined that there has been no breach of the Animal Welfare Act as the shark had been dead for around 30 hours before video footage was recorded.”

Three men from the Bay of Plenty caused outrage when footage emerged of one man “surfing” behind a boat on the carcass of the thresher shark which was being towed by its tail.

Bay of Plenty Times, via the NZ Herald.

This is ridiculous on every possible level.  First, if you read the full story, you will see that two fishermen accidentally killed a shark, then decided to tow the carcass back out to sea to dump it.  And, because they’re fun loving, wacky, kiwi blokes they decided to…surf it…out…to sea.  I’m not entirely sure how anyone could come up with that.  Second, the whole Herald story is about how surfing a deceased shark is not a breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Here’s a hint, guys: The Animal Welfare Act 1999 applies to living animals.

And, third, slipped in there without fanfare is the renaming of the Ministry responsible for animal welfare.  The Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, merged with Fisheries etc is now the Ministry for Primary Industries.  Would it be possible to make the ridiculous conflict of interest at the heart of New Zealand’s animal welfare regime more obvious?  The Ministry responsible for promoting primary industries (like, say, industrial farming) is responsible for prosecuting breaches of animal welfare (like, say, much industrial farming).

Wired magazine presents even more shark-related madness though: “Scientists” (hint: they’re not scientists) have mounted a laser on a shark:

Relax, Dr Evil. Your inspired request for “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached” has finally been fulfilled in the real world.

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April. The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

“This was definitely a world first,” Tipple told Wired. “Initially, I told them no. I thought it was a frivolous stunt. But then I considered that it would give us an opportunity to test our clips and attachments, and whatever is attached to that clip, I really don’t care. It was a low-powered laser that couldn’t be dangerous to anyone, and there’s actually useful application of having a laser attached to the animal.”

Tipple said the experiment was instructive in a number of ways. For starters, he was able to further test his clamping apparatus, which is typically used for traditional data-aquistion equipment.


That’s right.  Clamping a laser to a shark was great scientific research.  Because it helped test the clamp.  Well, that addresses all my animal welfare concerns right there.