06/09/2011 - Next week, Juliet Eilperin's Demon Fish: Travels Through the Hidden World of Sharks hits shelves, and it is poised to be one of the summer's most compelling beach reads — and not only because it will make you aware that mere feet away from you, there are likely hundreds of hungry, carnivorous fish lurking in the water.
Sharks are one of those species that inspire obsession; along with grizzlies, cougars, scorpions and other animals that can take a man down, sharks seem to continually captivate the public. Look at Shark Week: The Discovery Channel's programming block dedicated to the species has become the entire network's calling card. This year, SNL star Andy Samberg will host the week, and several other celebrities will make cameos. There are rumors still swirling about a modern remake of Jaws. Sharks are big business.
Using their likenesses for Hollywood hits is one thing, but the other money-making opportunities surrounding sharks are far more sinister. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in the East, but the poachers who provide the ingredients are sending some shark species into threat of extinction. It is this world of shark hunting and conservation that Eilperin dives into in Demon Fish, exploring the ways that different cultures have worshipped, protected and harmed sharks over time.
So, why sharks? Your writing for the Post is about national politics and elections.
Really what happened is I wanted to do something about oceans, because I really enjoy writing about them. I think they are underreported and can be more encouraging than the things I write about day in and day out So I talked to a bunch of different people about what angle to take and people brought up things that put me to sleep, like fish farming. Finally, Joshua Reichert of Pew told me I should write about sharks, and I said okay...make the case. He told me that we are learning all this incredible stuff through science now, and also they are basically like the buffalo. The buffalo were over-hunted, at the tail end, people in the east became obsessed with having buffalo tongue at dinner parties. And that's what we are seeing with sharks and shark fin soup. Sharks are at a tipping point. We are just at a moment with these creatures that we haven't been in a long time. There is a legitimate question about whether or not they will survive the pressures upon them.
Read the full interview Biting Into Demon Fish: A Chat With Juliet Eilperin on National Public Radio's Web site.