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Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks Hardcover – 14 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (14 Jun. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375425128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375425127
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 3.1 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not finished reading this yet but it is truly a wonderful book.

Gives a really good account of how people all over the world have sharks as part of their folklore and founding fathers stories.
Also how the exploitation of the Western/developed worlds is having such a devastating effect on these peoples cultures not just through overfishing and persecution of sharks but by bringing currency in to their life's thus making everything of an intrinsic value as opposed to cultural.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in sharks or how culture is influenced by "other worldly beings"

Brilliant read
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Format: Paperback
Eilperin conducts a range of competent investigations that span the planet. She checks out shark callers in New Ireland, the shark-fin soup markets of Hong Kong, the science of tracking sharks with electronic sensors, the evolution of shark folklore, the impact of shark decimation on the globe's food chain, and the rise of shark tourism operations, like Kim Maclean's Shark Lady Adventures for viewing South Africa's great whites. It's always good, detail-oriented journalism, the kind of thing that can make a real difference in public opinion.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
A must-read book for anyone interested in the world around us 9 Jun. 2011
By Laura Probst - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sharks are not the best ambassadors for their own survival. The original sea monsters of yore, they are not cute and cuddly, warm and fuzzy. And while they may be photogenic, it's not in an "Aww" kind of way. It's more akin to an "Aaah!" So while other animals imperiled by man's actions, such as the playful otter and friendly dolphin, the majestic whale and the placid turtle, endear themselves to humans and thus find themselves saved from utter destruction, it wasn't until recently that anyone started giving a damn about the horrible, deadly, sinister, man-eating shark and the fact that we've been killing them off indiscriminately since we discovered their existence a few hundred years ago. Many cultures, both today and in the past, might say the only good shark is a dead shark. Well, as some individuals and countries are coming to find out, that statement is the biggest piece of dumb-ass logic anyone has ever thought up.

We've so impacted the shark's environment, with our industries, our pollution, our fishing, that not only have several species of shark declined in population by anywhere from 90 to 99%, those sharks being caught today are smaller than their counterparts of even just a hundred years ago. Sharks do not rebound quickly; though some species give birth to large litters, many species take years to mature and only reproduce a limited number of times in their life--most of the time the litters they produce are small, with only one or two pups per birth. While we've begun to--finally--set aside protected waters, those areas cover only a fraction of the shark's territory and even then, some of the protections contain loopholes which still allow sharks to be fished. The truth is, we still know very little about these creatures, who've managed to stick around this planet for nearly 425 million years. That's 425 *million* years, people. These creatures, who've evolved into some of the most perfectly, if occasionally oddly, designed animals on the planet, have been around since before the dinosaurs and have even contributed to our own evolution (the bones of our inner ear, the way we swallow and talk due to muscles and cranial nerves which are the same as those which move a shark's gills), are still decried as man-eating monsters who deserve no pity. Yet these monsters are being systematically wiped out by us, humans, a predator more devastating, more mercenary, more cruel than any shark on this planet.

Juliet Eilperin's book is a well-researched investigation of the different ways in which we've poached, killed, decimated and otherwise pillaged the world's oceans of this apex predator, and the repercussions various governments and peoples have reaped as a result, in the form of depleted fish stocks, depressed economies, not to mention lost tribal traditions and vanishing cultural heritages. From the travails of Mark "the Shark" Quaratiano, who runs a fishing charter in Miami and complains that instead of sticking his hand in the water and pulling out a shark from the infested waters, he now has to work for several hours before he's able to catch a single shark for his macho-men, testosterone-boosting weenie clients (aww, poor baby), to the shark callers of Papua New Guinea, who are losing their faith-based tradition, which has sustained their native culture through colonization and Christian missionary proselytizing, due to the simple fact that the sharks of their islands have disappeared due to overfishing. Not the overfishing of prey fish, although that's played a part; no, overfishing of the sharks themselves. Which brings us to the most horrendous activity responsible for the decline of the shark: Finning. The practice of hauling a shark on board, slicing the pectoral and dorsal fins off the animal and tossing it, often while still alive, back in the water, to drown as it sinks to the ocean floor. Millions of sharks each year are killed in this manner, to supply one industry, shark's fin soup. And yet, as an ingredient, shark's fin adds nothing to the soup; it's a thin, noodle-like ribbon of cartilage which adds no flavor, only prestige to a dish which was once served only to a select few but now, with the rise of the Chinese middle class, is consumed at any and every occasion where such prestige is desired. Eilperin follows the trail of this world-wide trade, from the poor fishermen who are simply following the money even as they realize how the sharks have disappeared from their fishing grounds, to the secretive auction houses, where fins are sorted and sold with a minimum of words and a maximum of dollars and yen exchanged. The author details her travels around the world, to the different hotspots of shark fishing as well as shark protection and education, in a vivid, yet rational voice; her book is a clear-eyed dissection of our legacy towards the elasmobranch family (that's the shark, skate and ray family for those who are not selachophiles [shark lovers, a word I just made up]), backed up by sound scientific data and in-depth research. Part travelogue, part scientific journal, this book is a lively and fascinating look at how various cultures relate to this ocean predator, often in a surprising and (despite how I might've made it sound) sometimes positive way.

I've been a shark lover for as long as I can remember. It's been a love tempered by an equal measure of fear; because I know some sharks like shallow, murky water, growing up in Florida, I never went past my ankles (if I could help it) whenever we spent a day at the beach. I'd love to go cage diving in South Africa and see a great white up close; even though I know it creates a Pavlovian response, I'd still like to visit a shark feeding operation in Bimini, wear a mesh suit and sit in the middle of a feeding frenzy. Yet, when I was younger, I was scared of even swimming in the pool by myself, because of the fear of what might come up from the bottom of the deep end. (Yes, I realize I was swimming in a chlorinated pool and that there was no creature, of any sort, waiting in the deep end; psychological fears are hard to overcome, no matter what kind of logic you throw at them.) I still enjoy Jaws, even though I scream at the TV screen in frustration for the erroneous stereotype it puts forth; I've watched The Discovery Channel's annual Shark Week festival since it's inception, even though, as the years went on, I got bored with many of the programs as they didn't teach me anything I didn't already know. So, as you might've guessed, this book appealed to me at a basic level. However, if you've never given sharks a second thought; if you've seen Jaws and shuddered but never really desired to know any more about those creatures than what was portrayed in the movie; even if you think sharks are evil incarnate and deserve to be killed, I urge each and every one of you to pick up this book and read it. Sharks may not be endearing to the masses, but upon completing Demon Fish I dare you not to feel some sympathy and distress over how we've treated a creature who, quite frankly, is just trying to live on this planet, the same as us. The story of sharks is a story about us, in the long run, and how we choose to interact with the creatures who share our space.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Stunning Numbers, To Say the Least 17 May 2011
By John Galluzzo - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For some reason, it's a message that isn't getting through: we're killing our oceans. We fish certain stocks to unsustainability, move onto the next species, clean the ocean of that one, and move onto the next. The past century of technological advances in fishing have led to the death of our oceans.

Yet, lost in all of the drama of plunging edible fish stocks have been the apex predators. While last ditch efforts may rebuild popoulations of cod, herring and other fish, the plight of sharks may not be reversible. And the numbers are simply stunning in some cases: one species of hammerhead shark is currently at 1% of its historic population, and more monster shark fishing tournaments are being scheduled every day.

Author Juliet Eilperin brings us through what it is about sharks that makes us ignore their needs, the unwavering ignorance that allows us to remain blind to their problems, and our knee-jerk fears of the animal, traceable back to one 1970s summer blockbuster film. Demon Fish examines the relationship between man and shark, and implores us to act on their behalf.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Of Sharks And Sharkers 14 Jun. 2011
By Louis N. Gruber - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sharks were once worshipped as deities, later feared and loathed, still later hunted to the brink of extinction. Which brings us to the present time, with shark populations in precipitious decline. People tend to think of sharks in terms of their rare but deadly attacks on humans, but they are also an important part of the ecology of the oceans, and their loss will bring irreparable harm.

Written in chatty, journalistic style, reading Demon Fish is like watching multiple episodes of Sixty Minutes, with visits to shark callers in Papua New Guinea, shark fin traders in Hong Kong, shark fishermen, and activists of all kinds trying to save the sharks. Interesting tidbits about the biology of sharks alternate with interviews, skipping from one country and continent to another, stopping in at shark auctions, to quaint shops with dried shark fins in jars, to committees for the sharkers and other committees for shark conservation. Plus, everything you ever wanted to know about shark's fin soup.

And there's the problem with this book. Too much, too scattered, and too preachy. Author Juliet Eilperin maintains the same chatty style chapter after long chapter, but left this reader skimming toward the end of the book. The material about sharks themselves was fascinating, but there wasn't enough of it to hold this reader's interest. If you're obsessed with saving the oceanic environment you will probably like this book, but it's not my favorite. Reviewed by Louis N. Gruber.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.5 stars 24 May 2011
By E. Kennen - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Based on the back cover, I was expecting a sweeping anthropological examination of the complex relationship between man and shark. Based on the title, I was expecting the book to have a high degree of passion - perhaps even sensationalism. Instead I got... something that is not easy to describe. A detailed, yet somewhat dry look at the ancient, disappearing art of "shark calling" segues into a detailed, yet choppy look at the shark fin soup industry which segues into a hodge-potched and mostly basic look at the research of shark scientists around the world, along with repeated reminders that sharks are in critical trouble and must be saved.

I like sharks (you know, in theory; far, far away from me, or separated by a thick sheet of glass). I agree with all of Eilperin's conclusions (that sharks are worth saving, that shark fishing should be more regulated; that it needs to be done on a global scale). But I must sadly admit that she makes a poor case for the sharks, repeatedly stating her conclusions, while writing WHY sharks are important to the ecosystem (and therefore to us) only at the very end... and only in a very fleeting manner. While there is some good information and occasionally entertaining story-telling, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the order of the book or, in fact, why Eilperin chooses to convey some information and not address other things.

Sharks ARE evolutionarily complex and fascinating creatures. As apex predators, they have an outsized effect on their environment. They are worth studying - and conserving. They are also worth a book that does them justice. Alas, this one is not it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Lack of Focus Clouds Message 24 Jun. 2011
By Julie Ann Dawson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reviewer note: My review copy was an uncorrected bound proof and may not match final book.

I am a huge fan of sharks. I have been since childhood, and even today I have an entire shelf dedicated to shark figurines and toys. So it was with great excitement that I began to dig into the pages of Juliet Eilperin's Demon Fish. Demon Fish is less a traditional book on sharks than it is a study into how humans have interacted with them throughout history. Or, at least, that is how the book is marketed. Unfortunately, Demon Fish is bedeviled by a poorly executed delivery that spends more time wagging a damning finger than offering significant insight.

The book opens with a fascinating study into Shark Calling, an ancient custom still practiced in Papua New Guinea. Like many island cultures introduced to Christianity by missionaries, the people of Papua New Guinea have almost seamlessly blended their ancient rites with their adopted Christian beliefs. We are introduced to Karasimbe, one of the most respected shark callers of his generation. And through him we see a glimpse into a forgotten past when sharks were spiritual brethren with humanity.

But after this strong beginning, the book begins to retread familiar territory. Eilperin rehashes the tale of how the movie Jaws changed how people viewed sharks. She repeatedly works her way back to condemnation of China's obsession for shark fin soup. She points her accusing finger at world environmental bodies that refuse to take a stand to protect sharks. Instead of an original exploration of how humans and sharks have interacted over the centuries, we are given a repackaging of stuff that has already been done. If you have ever watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, 80% of this book is old news to you.

There are a few amusing antidotes. In particular, her narrative regarding the conversations concerning sharks that came up while she was a reporter on John McCain's Straight Talk Express during the 2008 election cycle. But though amusing, it really doesn't add much to the book. And this is the ultimate problem. Eilperin is a charming conversationalist, but not an eloquent journalist. At times, the book feels like you are talking to a very friendly but somewhat flighty friend who can't seem to stay focused long enough to get to the point. And when she does regain focus, it is to tell you something she already said.

If you are new to the world of sharks and the dangers they face from humans, Demon Fish is a good launching point. Eilperin's writing style is clear and accessible to even the most casual reader. But for those who have longstanding interest in these amazing creatures, the book does little to add to what we already know.
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