President Donald Trump may be “terrified” of sharks — but, ironically, his wish that “all the sharks die” is inspiring people to give money to shark conservation groups, according to MarketWatch.
Several non-profits have recently received donations that specifically mention Trump as the reason for charity. And many are new donors, including from outside of the US. For instance, one donation to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society came with the comment “Because Trump.” Another one said: “Contribution to save the Sharks after reading the article ‘Trump hopes sharks die,’” Zorianna Kit, media director for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, tells The Verge.
Trump’s alleged hatred for sharks was revealed last week, when In Touch Weekly released a full interview with adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Daniels had claimed she had an affair with Trump and was paid $130,000 to stay silent, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the interview, Daniels said of Trump: “He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ He was like riveted. He was like obsessed.”
In 2013, Trump also tweeted that he’s “not a fan of sharks.” And last year, he made headlines when he ate shark fin soup in Vietnam — a luxury item in Asia that’s responsible for driving shark numbers down. (Shark finning is banned in the US.)
Sharks are in fact a key species in the ocean. As top predators, they help keep prey populations in check and ecosystems healthy. Take sharks out of coral reefs, for instance, and the number of fish like groupers skyrockets. But groupers eat herbivores, and without those herbivores, big algae expand and corals suffer, according to the conservation group Oceana. “Quite truthfully, if sharks were to be eradicated, it would cause a lot of devastation in the world’s oceans,” Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, tells The Verge.
Though many people are afraid of sharks, all over the world, only five people a year die from shark attacks on average, Watson says. In comparison, last year, 16 people died of a lightning strike, including one person in Texas who was golfing, according to NOAA. “Sharks don’t target human beings,” Watson says.
After Trump’s comments were made public last Friday, Watson’s organization has received “quite a few” donations, according to MarketWatch. Kit, the media director for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, wouldn’t say exactly how many, but she told The Verge that “pretty much all reference Trump in some way.” Money from new donors continues to flow in, including from outside the US, she says. One donor, for instance, was from Germany.
SharkSavers, a WildAid program dedicated to saving sharks and mantas, has also seen “a few recent shark donations that specifically mention Trump,” Alona Rivord, WildAid’s communications director, told The Verge in an email. Rivord couldn’t say whether the organization has received “a bump” in donations, because it’s “too soon to compare” this month’s donations to the average monthly number. The non-profit Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has also received an influx of money following last week’s news, according to MarketWatch.
Some in the conservation community are worried that the president’s comments will polarize the discussion around shark conservation, but Watson isn’t worried. “I don’t think it’s going to make any difference,” he says. “It just draws attention to the issue and causes people to express concern about the president’s outlook on marine conservation issues.”
If anything, the discussion might have reminded some people of just how important sharks are. “If the oceans die, we all die,” Watsons says. “It’s something we all need to be concerned about.”