Who would have thought that shark attack survivors could become the animal’s most passionate advocates? In an act of ultimate forgiveness, the members of Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation are speaking up for this misunderstood creature and fighting to protect shark species around the world.
When nature lover Debbie Salamone was attacked by a shark in 2004, she saw the incident as a type of personal challenge; she could move on from the injury with a fear of the ocean she had always loved, or she could forgive her attacker and dedicate her life to protecting the world’s waters.
After recovering from her injury and earning a master’s degree in environmental sciences and policy, Salamone joined The Pew Charitable Trust, an organization which, in part, works to protect sharks. That’s when she had the idea to use her experience, and the stories of other survivors, to attract public attention to the cause she was so passionate about.
Salamone used Facebook to contact and recruit a passionate team of survivors from around the world. She “went after the worst of the worse [injured], people who were missing arms and legs. I wanted people who would give a visual picture and have the most compelling stories so people would pay attention.”
Shark Attack Survivors for Shark Conservation works with The Pew Charitable Trusts to target the inhumane practice known as shark finning, where fisherman catch wild sharks, cut off their fins and throw the animals back into the water to die. The fins are then sold as a delicacy to be used in the traditional Chinese dish, shark fin soup. Salamone’s team has also worked with the United Nations to protect endangered shark species and has led a undercover investigation of restaurants where shark fin soup is served.