Small Victories From the Jaws of Defeat

Publication: Times of London


10/08/2010 - If he had known what lurked below, James Elliott would never have waded into the water at Naama Bay that day. Only when he was torpedoed by an unseen force and felt a sudden, violent wrench on his left leg did he realise that he and his father had not been swimming alone.

He was dragged beneath the waves, something powerful clamped around his foot. "It had me a few inches above the ankle. I struggled for what seemed like forever, I thought I was going to die," he says, recalling how he finally jerked his limb free after kicking out with his free foot.

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Yet despite all the trauma, he has embarked on an extraordinary mission: lobbying for shark conservation. He knew little about the creatures before one had a go at killing him, and concern for their welfare was not something that occurred to him in the immediate aftermath of the attack. But about a month later he was contacted by the Pew Environment Group, a respected advocacy organisation in Washington whose agenda includes lobbying world governments to help to save sharks from extinction.

They told him how nearly one third of shark species are close to extinction. About 73 million of them are slaughtered annually for their fins alone, driven by the demand for shark-fin soup. Tens of millions more end up as fishermen's "bycatch" (discards).

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