Love Your Neighbor, Even If She's A Shark

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I first heard about endangered sharks years ago but had no idea how bad things have gotten. Stop-you-in-your-tracks statistics (and cool animations) start at 2:00 and put the issue in perspective. Artists are doing great work to reverse major biases that many of us hold against a really important member of the coral reef community.

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Tre Packard: PangeaSeed is a grassroots organization that was founded in Tokyo, Japan, about three and a half years ago. Our main focus is raising awareness for the Global plight of sharks and the protection of their habitat.

I moved to Japan several years ago, and one of the main reasons I moved there was for scuba diving. I love the oceans. I grew up surfing. I grew up skateboarding. I grew up on the coast. The oceans are just something that are very special and important to me. It's in my blood. When I moved to Japan, I thought it would be a great springboard to travel through Southeast Asia for diving. That's the coral triangle. That's, that's the heart of biodiversity. There's more biodiversity within the coral triangle than anywhere else on the planet. These places are supposed to be rich in shark populations. Once I started getting out there and diving, I noticed that there weren't any sharks. What I found out was, that there was this global trade for shark fin and the main reason is for soup. After seeing something that I love so much, you know, just laid out on a dock in the tens of thousands, you know something shifted in me and there was, there was no turning back.

With Pangea and PangeaSeed, this is a global movement. So sharks are being overfished in every ocean around the world, anywhere with a coastline, at just break neck speeds. The shark fin industry is a multi-billion dollar juggernaut. Even if the shark is protected, you know, they're being fished out just because they're more valuable. It's estimated that 70 to 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. For shark fin soup. Single bowl could go for three hundred bucks, and depending on the species, yea it can go for even more than that. Traveling through Asia, Hong Kong, China, Taipei, Japan, you know, I'm seeing this everywhere. The United Nations estimates that, you know, sharks have probably ten to twenty years left in the wild until they are commercially extinct. Unfortunately media loves the bad guy, and sharks are demonized in society because of films like Jaws, you know? And Jaws basically traumatized a generation and it continues to traumatize people around the world. When in all actuality, you are more likely to die from a falling coconut, a vending machine, a bee sting, car accident. You know, starvation alone kills close to, you know, 10 million people a year.

You know that right there, it says that sharks are not dangerous. I swim with them all the time. I have all my fingers and I have all my toes. And, you know, they are amazing animals to be in the water with. They're misunderstood, and they need our understanding, support, and sympathy.

The idea for the Great West Coast Migration, came about last year. We hosted our first art show, stateside. And we hosted it, actually here at this gallery, SpokeArt gallery in San Francisco. We kind of came up with this idea, you know, doing a traveling art show. You, you just normally don't see traveling art shows like this. Sharks are such incredible animals, and they, like several species migrate around the world. So we thought, okay, Migration Art Tour. You know, Here we go. Let's do it.

So this year, we are featuring over 125 artists. Artists from all over the world. We want to show that, you know, it's going to take a global movement to, to really protect these animals. To get people, you know, aware, interested in the issue.

Aaron Glasson : PangeaSeed's mission is ultimately to gain more protection for sharks, globally. We do that through awareness raising and education. And part of this awareness raising are these art shows.

Tre Packard : I thought, you know, if any animal needs positive PR, it's sharks. So, what better way to convey the message to the general public than through, you know, art, film, design, and photography. Art has the power to really change people's perspectives. Educate people. Inspire people. One of these pieces sells and it goes onto someone's wall, people come to their house, it starts new conversation. So, it's a great way to really continue raising awareness for the issue.

Anybody who comes to, you know, the Great West Coast Migration, or any other shows that we have hosted in the past, they walk away, changed. They walk away, educated. They walk away, inspired and empowered. And for me, you know, that is, that's, that is what I want to do. You know. I want to give people a new perspective on an animal that most people are afraid of, you know? I think it's really important that people know that if you love something, don't be afraid to protect it, you know, do whatever you can to protect it.

It's imperative that, that we become aware of how we purchase and, you know, what we support. You know, your dollars are vote and your voting for either death and destruction, or your voting for sustainability and a positive future. So, you know, it, it's in your hands.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Jon Woodman directed and edited this documentary for the nonprofit group PangeaSeed, which works with artists, scientists, and activists to build awareness of the plight of our oceans.

May 22, 2014

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