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Scott D. Pierce: Eat shark-fin soup? You're killing oceans

Published June 28, 2012 1:03 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Chris Fischer wants you to stop eating shark-fin soup. And if he has to wrestle gigantic, fearsome great white sharks to persuade you, he's happy to do it.

Fischer, a Park City resident, returns with his latest TV series, "Shark Wranglers," on the History Channel (Sunday, 11 p.m., with repeats throughout the week). Once again, we see him and his crew hauling great whites out of the ocean, tagging and releasing them.

It makes for great TV, but it's all in the name of science.

"It's enormously different from what we've done before," said Fischer, whose previous shows include "Shark Men" and "Offshore Adventures." "For the first time, I really feel like our full story is being told, rather than just an old-school documentary about sticking a tag on a shark and seeing where it goes."

"Shark Wranglers" isn't just wrangling sharks — although that provides absolutely incredible footage that's more than a bit frightening to watch. The show is more about the people on the expedition. And this expedition to the waters off South Africa brought together scientists who previously competed against one another. Fischer's latest expedition supported 12 research projects by 30 researchers at 18 institutions.

It was "ocean first," he said. "We forced them all to collaborate so we could learn as soon as possible to effect change as soon as possible. It's harder to haul all the people together, but it's more dangerous to handle the sharks."

The new series revolves around a mission to tag 50 great white sharks in 40 days. "Nothing has ever been done like that," Fischer said. "I don't know that 50 big white sharks have ever been tagged in total around the world, if you remove the ones we've tagged."

Adding to the drama was bad weather that hammered the ship and the crew. But Fischer was almost desperate to complete the mission for reasons that had nothing to do with TV.

"We're catching the biggest things in the world in the most difficult environments in the world because we have to push the body of knowledge now. There is no time left," he said emphatically. "More than 70 million sharks are getting killed a year, much of which is for a bowl of soup."

He's passionate in his call to action. "Sharks will be gone in our lifetimes if we don't do something now. And if we lose the sharks, we lose the oceans."

Learning where the sharks go will allow them to be protected where they're most vulnerable. And viewers at home can help.

"Did you know you can get a bowl of shark-fin soup in Salt Lake City?" Fischer asked. "It's awful. People anywhere can work with the local government to get it banned. That's a real simple way to help save the oceans."

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.