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Whale Shark Hypocracy

By: Gary Hagland

Date Posted: 2000-04-01

I would like to reply to the ad hominem attack that appeared in last week's Japan Update by Mr. Richard Ruth. Everyone has the right to his or her opinion. I understand the concerns that were expressed in the other letters to the editor in the last two weeks about the situation of the whale sharks in the net off Yomitan by a student and a teacher from DODDS on Camp Kinser, although I think those concerns are misguided. We Americans tend to project our values, assumptions, and prejudices on others more than we should. This is especially true when animals are the issue. In some societies, puppies are cuddled. In others, they're a food source. There are countries where the sharks might be the main course of the Friday night fish fry. At Yomitan, the whale sharks are not mistreated, and eventually they will be released.

That Mr. Ruth should cry “shame,” and attempt to take the moral high ground on this or any issue is nothing short of amazing. He has a colorful and checkered history that recently culminated with his expulsion from both the American and Japanese branches of the world’s largest recreational dive training agency. Having the misfortune of knowing him for years, and being familiar with his antics, I find it hard to believe that he would really be sick to his stomach about something as benign as a diver holding on to the dorsal fin of a whaleshark. To test his sincerity, I suggest you visit his website www.fathoms.net. Under “Services” you will find among the other underwater merit badges that he previously offered when he could teach, a course labeled, “Aquariology.” Aquariology is the science of aquaria. You learn how aquariums should be constructed and how to maintain them. You learn what free swimming fish do best in the captivity of a glass case in your living room, as well as what to feed them and how to care for them. Of course, the fish in your tank are not as big as the fish in the huge net in Yomitan. Does that make a difference?

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