There's nothing like a cold beer during the summer, but the beer companies you give your money to might be sponsoring the killing of endangered or vulnerable shark species.
The Guardian discovered that Budweiser, Coors, Miller, Samuel Adams and Captain Morgan are all sponsoring shark killing tournaments. The objective of these tournaments is simple: Catch and kill the biggest shark, and you win the grand prize.
The prize might be a valuable item from a corporate sponsor, like a new car or boat, or it could be a cash prize. The fishermen also place bets, so the amount of money the winner gets might be far greater than the official prize. The 2015 winner of the Block Island shark killing tournament took home $40,000.
Courtesy: Fraser Cairns/Flickr
Shark killing tournaments do have rules about which species can be killed, but some of the permitted species are endangered or vulnerable. These include porbeagles, shortfin makos and threshers.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers porbeagles in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean endangered and the latter two species vulnerable. A vulnerable species may soon become endangered.
Sarah Fowler, former chair of the IUCN's shark specialist group, said she does not think there is an issue with the tournaments from a "scientific standpoint." However, she also suggested "tag and release tournaments" as a better alternative, because they could contribute to scientific research.
Unfortunately, the tournaments' participants are very attached to the practice of weighing the dead sharks on the docks. Nothing makes you look quite as tough and manly as posing for a picture with a gutted shark, right?
The alcohol companies listed above are not the only well-known companies sponsoring these tournaments. Other sponsors include Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Lexus, Nissan and Merrill Lynch (Bank of America).
Corporate sponsors of shark killing tournaments are facing increasing pressure to withdraw their support. Last year, Toyota came under fire for offering a new Tundra to whoever won the North Atlantic Monster Shark Tournament. The car company responded by rescinding its sponsorship.
What Can You Do to Protect Sharks?
Toyota is an example of how consumer pressure can end unethical corporate sponsorships. If you want to save sharks, you can stop buying products from the companies listed above, and tell them to stop sponsoring shark killing.
But remember: Shark-killing tournaments are only responsible for a small percentage of the total sharks killed every year. One of the most effective ways to protect sharks is actually to stop eating fish.
Every year, millions of sharks are unintentionally caught in massive fishing nets. This is known as "bycatch," and it's absolutely devastating to shark species. In the northeast Atlantic Ocean, the hammerhead shark population has declined by 89 percent over the last 20 years because of bycatch.
So, don't order that Bud Light with your dinner. But you shouldn't order the fish fillet either.