My original manuscript (Shark Hunt) was for fishermen and scuba divers. I felt sports fishermen would be interested in knowing how, when, and where to find Florida sharks since most species are seasonal and migration patterns vary depending on what they eat. I also was compelled to lay out facts from my hands-on experience capturing these savage predators while putting to rest some misinformation circulated from less reliable sources. Sharks are essential in the world’s ecosystems, but make no mistake about how lethal they are to the unprotected. Shark attacks against swimmers, surfers, divers, victims of air or sea disasters are often fatal. Yet when compared to other deaths like disease, murder, traffic fatalities, deaths by shark bite pale in numbers. Nonetheless, one’s demise as consumed by a predatory animal is tragic and nothing to mock. And if preventable, all methods should be exercised to protect human safety. In a civilized world, humans take precedence over beast!
Scuba divers are at less risk from attack since most sharks perceive them as possible danger and will avoid contact. However, if stimulated by food, acting territorial or going rogue after becoming injured or aging, some sharks can and will threaten underwater humans, often approaching divers when they’re vulnerable: entering or exiting the surface.
I know my book will be an asset to anyone who wants to fish, dive or simply study sharks. But since my expertise is not in the literary field, publishers suggested I find a co-author who could enhance my story behind the photographs into a more enlightening form. For several years I resisted but finally agreed my story would be better received as a memoir. So Shark Hunt became Sharkman of Cortez. It’s been a long journey. Four decades.
The book will soon be published, and our staff prepared “prerelease pledge packages,” distributed by mail to marinas, tackle and bait shops, fishing centers, nautical shops, tiki bars and diving centers. The goal: to gauge subject interest other than at book stores, though the book will be available there as well. Each package contained a copy of the book cover, an introduction and a color cut sheet of photos of underwater live sharks and surface shots of dead sharks I’d captured. We then made personal appearances to secure signing dates.
The response has been overwhelming. Charter Captains in particular welcomed this fresh story.
“We’re tired of all this ‘save the shark’ crap,” one Skipper said. “Hell, they’re thick as sardines offshore and they kill most of the good fish before we get ‘em boatside. Every time we bring a shark to the dock, some tree hugger whines about killing the ‘poor shark.’ Them pussies need to get a life.” As a retired commercial fisherman, I understand these charter guys.
What I didn’t anticipate was the response from many owners and managers of Diving Centers. I’ve dealt with similar episodes and wasn’t surprised: sharks are not good for the tourist economy. After looking over my presale packets with dive shop personnel from the panhandle to the Florida Keys, I was repeatedly told, “Your book looks awesome, Captain but I cannot sell it in my shop. I’d be shooting myself in the foot. We tell potential customers, those that are considering becoming certified divers, that sharks are few and far. Maybe a small nurse shark or two at reefs. But that’s about it. The veteran divers know that sharks are out there and where to find them but after logging all that dive time they get to respect sharks. It’s the newcomers. If we carry your book, we’re kind of acknowledging that sharks exist and could be dangerous. And that’s bad for business.”
One owner in Islamorada pointed to his wall of spear guns and remarked, “We used to sponsor spear fishing tournaments and now I can’t sell any of them.” Then he pointed to a case of disposable underwater cameras. “I sell a lot of that crap. Nobody wants to kill anything any more, just take pictures, Captain.” Another dive shop manager in Key West said, “Your book looks great. I’ll buy it, but I mean I can’t sell it. I do business with a lot of Enviros and your book’s got all these pictures of sharks you killed. Some of my customers are the emotional and squeamish type. They are relentless and they’ll boycott me for sure if I sell a shark hunter’s story. It’s the economy, sorry.”
Well, not to worry. Presales are robust elsewhere and our distribution will be worldwide. Check out my website: www.sharkmanofcortez.com. The times are a changing and I’ve got to educate a younger generation who’s been fed two decades of eco-bullshit.
Another quote from a dive shop owner: “Thanks for stoppin’ by Captain and I look forward to the book. Can’t wait to read it.