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Pew: Games with Numbers

In August 2012, the Pew Environment Group released a short film entitled, 'Sharks. It's a Numbers Game' during the 25th anniversary of 'Shark Week' as part of their Global Shark Conservation Campaign.

For those who are wondering who Pew are ...

Founded by the children of Joseph N. Pew, CEO of the Sun Oil Company, (Sunoco), the Pew Charitable Trusts have donated millions to numerous charitable organisations that share the Pew family's philosophy and beliefs in education, religion, medicine and social welfare.

When not assessing the Muslim birth rate to predict the growth of the global Muslim population, (I kid you not), they donate to environmental groups. Sunoco is considered an environmental leader in the oil and gas industry. And Pew believe they can help to solve the nation's problems. That nation being the USA.

You can find their one minute shark film on YouTube. The link is here


Comments for the film were disabled, so I wrote them a letter.


Rebecca W. Rimel
President and CEO
The Pew Charitable Trusts
901 E St. NW
Washington, DC 20004-2008
The United States of America

7th October 2012

Dear Ms. Rimel,

I am writing to you in your position as President & CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts, because, ultimately, the responsibility for Pew's output is yours.

This letter concerns the one minute short film, 'Sharks. It's a Numbers Game' from the Pew Environment Group.

The short claims there are over 400 kinds of shark.

In fact, as of May 2012, there are over 1200. Batoids alone account for 650. Perhaps the bad news for sharks may be that you, as self proclaimed conservationists, are unaware of the existence of two thirds of them.

Pew claims that there are 3 sharks killed every second, and that up to 73 million sharks are killed every year.

You will note that Dr. Shelley Clarke, who carried out the research into shark kills for trade, has previously stated directly to Pew that 73 million was the top end of the possible range, and that her 'best guess' was in fact the mean, of 38 million.

Pew have ignored her. Again.

Moreover, 3 sharks killed per second does not equate to 73 million sharks per year.

Elementary long division will establish that the kill rate for 73 million per year would be 2.3 sharks per second, not 3.

The 3 sharks per second comes from the so-called 'Magic Number' of 100 million sharks per year (3.1)

Perhaps those behind the video felt that no one would check their figures? How ironic, given the title.

Perhaps, for propaganda purposes, 3 sounded better than 2?

Perhaps someone was too lazy to make their own calculations, and took them instead from the award-winning documentary, 'The Shark Con', where the 3 sharks per second was used to debunk the Magic Number?

The Pew video claims that sharks are killed for shark fin soup.

This points the finger specifically at Asia. I have no idea if Pew's shark conservation is driven by a racist agenda, but what is evident is that Pew clearly believes supporters of shark conservation are susceptible to a racially motivated message.



Frequently on the social networks of Shark Alliance members, (an alliance Pew formed), such stories 'targeting' shark fin soup result in comments, such as this from Shark Savers in August 2012;

"Cut off their arms and legs, and watch them sink to the bottom of the ocean!"

Some such comments contain sexual swear words.

It appears that whatever your intentions are, your message appears to be inflaming racial hatred towards Asia.

These posts are never removed. Unlike those requesting that such non profits publish their accounts, so that everyone can see where the money comes from, and where it goes, particularly with regard to salaries.

Your video suggests that sharks are used solely in shark fin soup, but shark is present in haemorrhoid creams. And as a woman of a certain age with means, you should also be aware that shark is also present in some anti-aging creams and moisturiser, face powder, hand cream, body wash and body lotion, lipstick and vitamins.

Can you categorically claim there is no shark content present in the skin products you use daily?

Or the leather products you own? Or the inoculations before a trip overseas? Or your training shoes when you go to the gym? The dress shoes you wear for a function? The food you feed your cat? The fertiliser for your garden, even the sandpaper your contractor uses preparing your summerhouse?

For Pew to point the accusing finger at Asia when such products are used by a global market seems little short of rank hypocrisy, especially when so many of the world's fishing fleets legally catch shark to trade, including the UK, EU, and the USA.

I myself knowingly consume shark meat on a regular basis. Rock Eel and chips has been part of my diet for over 40 years, yet you're not condemning me. Is that because I'm Western? Is it because I'm white?

Given the available resources, it is tempting to deride Pew's research as amateurish, the arithmetic as inept, and the use of the 'race card' as embarrassing. However I believe the reality is much worse.

I believe that none of this actually matters to Pew, because it views supporters of shark conservation with contempt. So it doesn't matter if Pew distorts the science, or get the maths wrong, or blames the Asians, because Pew knows the supporters will believe the message regardless.

And obviously, it is the ocean resources that principally interest Pew, not the sharks. You cannot claim to be interested in saving sharks, while inflating the peer reviewed science to effectively 'kill' even more.

The last shark declared extinct lived 1.5 million years ago. To put that into context, mankind has been around for some 200, 000 years.

In the last 12 years, over 200 species of shark, previously unknown to science have been discovered, described and named.

In the last decade, the charismatic man eaters, supposedly so 'endangered', have accounted for a record number of human fatalities, and every decade the number of human fatalities increases.

It's evident that sharks may not be quite as 'endangered' as Pew claims.

Your web site carries the quote from Joseph Newton Pew Jnr.
"Tell the truth and trust the people."

Fine words. But with regards to Pew's work in shark conservation, there appears little evidence, or even intent of this.


H E Sawyer


I'm not expecting a reply, but will post it here, should one arrive.
As always, don't hold your breath.