man-eating shark

“Man-Eating” Shark, Caught with Hook and Line in Pensacola, Florida, 1904.

Project (2022)

Apex Predators: Encounters with Sharks since 1900

This book project addresses the global environmental, technological, and cultural history of human interactions with sharks. Tentatively titled Apex Predators: Encounters with Sharks since 1900, this work examines how human diets and global trade networks have driven the worldwide decline of shark populations, producing cascading trophic collapses. In the process of documenting this ecological story, I have also uncovered the material and social consequences of changes in popular perceptions of sharks from “mindless killing machines” to integral components of ecosystems. My research has led me to reject as simplistic and incomplete the prevailing view that global shark populations have plummeted since the 1980s due to increasing purchasing power in China and that nation’s peculiar preference for shark fin soup. While there is some truth to this interpretation, I contend the trouble is not so much the cultural practice of shark fin soup, but rather a broader capitalist relationship to the seas that endeavours to commoditize every organism within them, even if the long-term corollary of such actions is inevitable systemic collapse.