I WILL ALWAYS STAND IN THE BLOOD: The story of Mexicos shark trade and my first encounter with dead sharks. The beginning of shark girl; and the realization that I cannot have nice things.
Written by Madison Stewart 2012
I have a thing about red shoes, I don’t know if it was the Dr who episode that resulted in my discovery that he also likes red shoes, or just the color itself, but it has been a desire of mine to own red shoes for some time now. My grandmother absolutely hates my red shoes, telling me I will never get on TV with shoes like that, which is when I reminded her I don’t want to be on TV, even still, when I did my live interview on the morning show, I wore my red shoes, and like clockwork, my grandmother rang me afterwards, to yell at me for wearing my red shoes. They are a trademark of mine to some, my friends children bought red shoes after seeing mine in some small production I was involved with, and people seem to notice them more than anything, even more than my orange sunglasses. My first pair of red converse met me in Hawaii, by the end of the day, they were mine.
A few weeks later, it was my very first film shoot for the production ‘shark girl’ and I was not only about to learn the ins and outs of the film industry and what was involved, I was also about to witness for the first time a requiem of my most loved creature, two significant events of my life, both ending in the consumption of rum. We were on a small island off the coast of Mexico, I will not reveal the exact location, because I don’t want to name and shame the fishermen. Our intension was not to film dead sharks, but we would if we got the chance of course, and the film crew though it would be essential.
Beyond the steaks at woolworths, I had never seen a dead shark, or more significantly, smelt one, however the film crew did not know this, and they assumed I would be prepared for whatever was about to be filmed. We were ‘lucky’ in a way to be there the day they brought sharks in, which only happened once a week in that month. We brought beers and soft drink as bribery for the fishermen letting us film and talk to them. Our language barrier was bad, except for the lead fisherman, hes English was good.
I remember seeing them for the first time form the window of the hire car, that same figure that just brought me nothing but joy underwater was now about to take a new meaning for me. These bodies were limp, side by side being wheeled to a truck, laying out over a wagon, I had never seen a shark so destroyed, and even still, they expelled the same strong presence as they did underwater. It was some time into watching the fishermen struggle to move every shark, different species, different sizes, into the giant truck, that I would be involved in the process.
I thought to myself, with the doors closed, this would look like a normal truck, you would never be able to tell it was full of dead sharks, was every unmarked truck I saw full of dead sharks too? It was a moment I will not forget, pretending to be something I wasn’t in order to talk to the fishermen, smiling at men, who through no demeanor or malice, were profiting from the death of the creature I have devoted my life to saving. They were not necessarily endangering the species, in fact the were the most sustainable fishermen I have come across so far, respecting and acknowledging the laws, respectful of the shark. Yet the smell- was enough to mean that smile on my face was a fake one.
Then, he invited me into the truck. I looked from the outside in, it was dark, but once you are sheltered from the light, you can see the back of the truck about 8 meters away. In-between me and the wall opposite, was a massive pile of dead sharks, stacked on top of eachother, red with blood, some of the fins sticking out of the top of the pile, still carried a distinctive boot tread from where they have been walked on during the process. I climbed into the truck, the men had to lend me a hand as I am not tall. I looked down as soon as I mustered up the courage to take my eyes away from my camera monitor, it is truly remarkable how I am able to hide away from the world and everything is ok when im looking at it from behind my camera.
I looked down, red, red water, red water that after a few minutes I realized was shark blood. I remember the first time I saw a great white, I knew what I was but my mind made me believe it was a grey nurse shark instead, and it took me a few minutes of my head betraying me before I realized and accepted it was a great white, the I was more shocked about the power my mind had over me. This was the same, only the red water at realization that became shark blood, was a far scarier occurrence that the great white, a far more shocking realization. I managed after a little while, to look up at the fishermen to maintain my faith in them, and my lack of care over the situation or the creatures in my midst. When they were distrated after I asked the to point out the species that I clearly identified without their help, I look back down to my feet, this time, I noticed my shoes.
I stood there, in the presence of these sharks, and time stood still, as I looked at my new red converse, until now, I had forgotten Iwas stupid enough to wear them. I tried for a second, to remember of they were always this red, or if the blood had stained them. They were a symbol, this was the first shoot of the film, this was the start of me being exposed to the world, this was the start of my exposure to dead sharks, to the battle I spoke of wanting to fight, now in the battle ground, I was stunned. These shoes were a symbol, not only that I cant have nice things, something I would finally have to admit my mother got right, but a symbol of who I was, who I was becoming, what I do.
I can grantee you no other 18 year old has brand new shoes she was so happy about because Dr who had the same shoes, let alone ends up only to have those shoes stained in shark blood. The blood creeps past the white plastic lining at the base as I look on, finally, it seeps into the fabric, and like a deer in headlights, I look on. A few weeks after, they became unbearable, from that day on, those shoes stank of shark blood. When we left the scene of the dead sharks I held face, I went to lunch with the film crew, I sat, I talked, I didn’t eat, but I observed. The end of the day many hours later I was alone for the first time, I showered, then remembering I had to wear the same clothes for more filming that afternoon I put the same clothes back on. This is when I finally burst into tears, threw my back against the wall and allowed myself to slide down to the floor.
The clothes stank of shark blood, my shoes, stank of shark blood, my brand new converse. I still have them, they are now wrecked, if you get close enough, you can still smell the shark. I lernt to never et excited over sheos again, I now wear black boots, convinced blood will not show up on black material. I suffered through filming the dead sharks, but if I am able obtain footage of them, it is all worth it… I loved my shoes, and I suffered through them smelling like shark blood for the next few months and eventually threw them out, but again, this is just who I am, if I am able to make a film out of that, if I am able to use that for good, then I will carry and endure the smell, and the fact no one wants to sit next to me on the train.
Simple things in life make me happy, those shoes brough me immense joy, you can ask those who were with me at the time, how excited I was to own those shoes, to own red shoes, only to weeks later, have them smell of shark blood. That smell is, like my shoes, an element of who I am, those shoes represented something I loved, and in a way, so did the smell of blood. I take the death of another species badly, and no matter what the consequences, for you to see what I see, for sharks to benefit from it, for a film or footage to come from it, I will always get into the truck, I will always wreck my believed red shoes, I will always feel pain over another species, I will always, stand in the blood.