A teacher and his former student are working to raise awareness of the butchering of sharks for their fins.
A San Diego State University alumnus and science teacher at Paso Robles High School, along with his former student, are bicycling across five states — through America’s heartland — to raise awareness and money to end a fishing practice that threatens the ocean’s top predators.
Mark DiMaggio, 55, a teacher and conservationist, and Devon Lambert, a 19-year-old conservation biology major attending the University of California at Davis, call their campaign to end the slaughter of sharks "Spinning to End Finning."
Their 1,200-mile trek along the classic TransAmerica Bicycle Trail will take them from Colorado Springs, Colo., to Harrodsburg in western Kentucky between June 16 and July 9. They’ll travel past historic sites and the pair plan to give public talks along the route.
About the team
DiMaggio, an SDSU grad who attended Madison High School now lives in Cambria, on the Central Coast. In 1979, he and two other friends sailed to Hawaii from San Diego in a 26-foot sloop. He's an award-winning teacher/conservationist who lives in a straw-bale house in the Cambria pines.
Gaylene Ewing, a Paso Robles High biology teacher, will coordinate efforts for the pair from the team’s home base.
Money raised will be donated to Pretoma, an award-winning organization supported by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that works to protect ocean resources and promote sustainable fisheries policies in Costa Rica and Central America, and ARCAE, the Costa Rican Environmental and Educational Network.
“We hope to raise $10,000,” DiMaggio said. “Every dollar raised this summer will go straight to shark conservation.”
Shark finning is a practice where sharks are caught, their fins are cut off, and the living shark is tossed back into the ocean. The shark usually dies from the practice.
The fins are one of the most expensive seafood products in the world, fetching hundreds of dollars per pound. A bowl of shark-fin soup can cost up to $150. Finning is illegal in the United States, but only four states — California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington — have outlawed the sale of fins.
“The growing demand for shark fin soup, considered an delicacy in Asia, has caused shark finning to occur in epic proportions globally,” DiMaggio said. “Sharks are the most dominant predator in the ocean and have existed there for hundreds of millions of years.
“Now, they are at risk of a total global extinction, with an estimated 100 million sharks killed annually for their fins. If they disappear, the ecology of the oceans will be enormously disrupted and could collapse entirely.
“This would be a catastrophe of immense magnitude for people,” he said.
Most illegal finning occurs in the waters off Central America. During the past 15 years, Costa Rica-based Pretoma has fought finning by raising public awareness and advocating fishing policy reform.
The fear of sharks
“Some people may wonder why we’re riding so far from the coast,” DiMaggio said. “We think that finning is not only an ocean issue, it’s an Earth issue. While attacks on humans are exceedingly rare, people’s fear of these creatures are intense, often based on works of fiction like ‘Jaws.’ ’’
More people die from bee stings and eating peanuts each year than ever do from an encounter with a shark, he said.
To learn more or to follow the ride, go to www.endfinning.com. If you have questions or would like to help, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jay Thompson (economics, 1981) studied journalism at SDSU and worked at the Daily Aztec 1982-1983.