Photos of American TV host Rosie O'Donnell with a dead hammerhead shark have caused a controversy online.
The photos were posted by Mark Quartiano, an infamous Miami Beach fisherman who guided the fishing exhibition. They show Ms O'Donnell and her children with the dead shark under the title "This Month's Celebrity Angler."
Since then further photos of the TV host on shark killing exhibitions have been revealed and an online war on Facebook and twitter between her and environmentalists has been launched.
Ms O'Donnell has responded on twitter saying that it was years ago, that her daughter caught it, that the meat is used in bait pots and and then: "I have seen sharkwater – I love the ocean – I am on it daily in Miami – chill people – really – my family fishes."
Despite this her blog boasts catching several large sharks and calls Quartiano her 'favourite shark hunter'.
Quartiano – whose website is peppered with images of shark attack victims – defended the trips saying that the trips took place over the past two or three years before shark fishing became illegal. He added that O'Donnell was a great angler and very conservation-minded having released lots of the fish she caught. He added in a TV interview that conservationists were doing the wrong thing coming after him as he was simply one man with one rod and that commercial fishermen were far more to blame:
"…metric tons of sharks being killed daily right outside of our coast. You're targeting the wrong guy."
Environmentalists point out that although O'Donnell technically hasn’t broken any laws, hammerhead sharks are endangered and she is encouraging people to fish for them.
"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."
A Facebook campaign entitled "Stop Rosie O'Donnell and Mark the Shark Hunter killing our oceans” has been launched.
Hammerhead shark populations have diminished by 80% over the last 20 years and scientists regard Florida waters as key in the species' survival, with the Atlantic supplying important pupping and feeding grounds for the sharks. As a consequence Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission issued a ban which came into force on January 1 this year which prohibits the harvest, possession, sale and exchange of Tiger sharks and Great, Scalloped and Smooth hammerhead sharks in state waters.
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