Rosie O’Donnell, the controversial, 49-year-old talk show host, has entered the hot water of environmentalist wrath over a photo showing her and her children with a dead hammerhead shark.
As of 12 days ago, the Florida Fish and Wildlife conservation board made killing three types of hammerhead sharks in Florida waters a second degree misdemeanor, although it states that catch and release is still allowed. The hammerhead shark is not listed on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list, but one species of hammerhead was put on the World Conservation Union’s Red List as endangered in 2008. The Florida FFW cited declining levels of the shark population for enacting the ban in the state.
The current controversy began when Mark “The Shark” Quartiano, who hosts guided sport fishing tours in Miami, posted the photo of O’Donnell’s family and the shark on his website as the Celebrity Angler of the Month. O’Donnell explains on Twitter that her daughter reeled in the shark “years ago” before it became endangered or unlawful to catch, though under the FFW ban catching is allowed as long as the fish is released.
Erik Brush, a Sarasota marine conservationist, is one of the individuals leading the effort against O’Donnell. He was teasing media about the “scoop” he had over an incident involving O’Donnell in late Dec. 2011 on Twitter. The Sun-Sentinel has more from Brush:
“Right now sharks are the most endangered animals around,” said Brush. “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.”
Along with some aggressive comments against O’Donnell’s catch on Twitter and Facebook, the Sun Sentinel reports that marine biologists, diving organizations and members of environmental groups such as Shark Savers, Planet Ocean Alliance and the Australian Anti-Shark-Finning Alliance are coming down hard on her.
But O’Donnell isn’t backing down from the catch. Here are some of her explanations on Twitter as well as other Twitter followers coming forward in her defense:
The Sun Sentinel states that Quartiano is also stepping up for O’Donnell:
Quartiano defended the trips, which took place over the past two or three years, calling O’Donnell “a great angler. She’s very conservation-minded. We’ve caught a lot of fish and released a lot of fish. We’ve also caught fish for eating and trophies.”
As for O’Donnell’s reaction to the controversy, he said “She’s amused by it. She wants me to go on her show.”
Quartiano also points out that the number of hammerheads caught in sport fishing endeavors is much lower when compared to the number trapped in commercial fishing nets.