Richard Stallman's personal site.

For current political commentary, see the daily political notes.

RMS's Bio | The GNU Project

Shark Deaths

Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 17:32:24 +0000
From: Ila France PORCHER <>

Dear Friends,

I was supposed to be with my sharks this afternoon, but since a bad storm is blasting the island, keeping me home, I thought I'd write to you about them. The recently publicized shark finning news struck me because it raises again the spectre of death, and the possible deaths of more of mine. Also, it reminds me that there was outrage over their deaths, but not over the deaths of my sharks. News just doesn't seem to get out of Polynesia. I have reported it here, in a variety of ways, but there was no reaction, no response, no answering investigation.

All of my favourite sharks are dead now, animals I had known for five years, all of the mature females I first met. The newly maturing ones who took their places are disappearing too. If you find this situation hard to imagine, think of any animal you know, and imagine how you would feel if you had many of them you spent a lot of time with, each one a different but responsive individual, and someone came along and just cut off parts of them to make soup, (which could have been made with pasta), leaving them to die.

These sharks represent a random sampling of the sharks of Polynesia. No one else is out there watching. The dive clubs see the male sharks outside the reef, and since they don't keep track of individuals, and there are still sharks around, the loss of the breeding females may not have become apparent to them. Yet. My sharks were all pregnant when the finning began, and their babies died within them as they writhed, finless, on their way through the crushing pressures of the abyss to the bottom. These babies could have been amoung the sharks you might have seen, in a few years, at the nearby dive site, one of the top ten shark dive sites in the world.

On September the 17th, 2003, Bruno Sandros, the minister of the environment, announced that there would be a ban on "commercialization of fins," (though what we were lobbying for was a sanctuary for sharks, like the one Palau has established). Since then, it has been impossible to find out anything from the government about what's going on, and in the meantime, the sharks vanish. The only place I got any information was when I asked a fisherman I know in a different context, when he complained about the fishing. I said, "Well, are you at least still able to sell your shark fins?" "Oh yes," he said, and told me he brings in about thirty cases a week, a small-time fisherman, too. But I couldn't learn any more about where they went or how they were sold.

At night I sit looking out to sea, while the waves lap gently on the beach, a trill of sound, a pause of silence, another trill, measuring the time. Lights pass, slowly, outside the reef. There's always a tension. I never know who will die next.

Ah, if a tear was shed for each of the sharks that Gaston Floss and Bruno Sandros have failed to protect, tears would be falling like the rain now falling on the home of my sharks.

But no one weeps for sharks.

To voice your concern about the situation, please write to the government authorities at these addresses, asking for a complete ban on shark fishing like the one adopted by Palau, for a sanctuary for the sharks of Polynesia, and mentioning that the species involved are on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.

President Gaston Floss, at

Mme Patricia Grand, Minister of Fisheries, at

M. Teva Rohfritsch, The Minister of Tourism, at

and copy the letter to:

I'd really appreciate it if you could pass this on to relevant lists, or to friends who might be interested, and send you my heartfelt thanks for listening.

French Polynesia

Dead Shark

Return to Richard Stallman's home page.

Please send comments on these web pages to

Copyright (C) 2004 Richard Stallman

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.