Science

Marine Life Conservation Groups See a Swell of Donations After Reports Suggest Trump Hates Sharks

People hold a sign that says “Sharks need our protection.”
Shark populations are rapidly dwindling worldwide.
Juan Cevallos/AFP/Getty Images

Marine life conservancy groups have seen an uptick of donations after a tabloid report claimed the president of the United States told his former porn star mistress that he hoped “all the sharks die.”

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that President Trump’s lawyer had arranged a $130,000 payout to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the last election as part of a deal that she would not publicly discuss an alleged affair she had with Trump in 2006. In Touch, a gossip magazine, then published an interview from 2011 in which Daniels discussed the supposed relationship in odd and agonizing detail. She claims that she was at one point at the Beverley Hills Hotel dining on swordfish with Trump while he was watching Shark Week:

He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. 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. It’s so strange, I know.

As Slate’s Susan Matthews points out, the anecdote may not be all that surprising, since Trump has publicly voiced his eccentric animosity toward the sea creature in the past:

MarketWatch reported that in the days since the interview was published, leaders from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have noticed a flood of donations from first-time donors in Trump’s name or otherwise referencing his alleged comments. The Verge added that the WildAid program Shark Savers has also seen a recent charity bump.

The Shark Research Institute also claims that Lola, a 13-foot female white shark last seen near Mexico, was adopted under Trump’s name over the weekend. The institute’s director told Newsweek that, even though Lola is “a very pretty shark,” he does not believe the president was the actual benefactor.

Twitter users have also been soliciting donations for the aquatic cause:

Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, told Slate, “People have been asking me what [the president’s comments] means for donations. That’s not the most important thing—the important thing is that we’re killing 75 million sharks a year. We’re collapsing the ecological diversity of the oceans.” Watson also argues that the administration’s plans to weaken Obama-era offshore drilling bans will further hurt marine life, and said, “It’s almost as if the president looks at environmentalists as enemies.”

The World Wildlife Foundation notes that shark populations are rapidly declining on a global scale mainly due to high demand for the meat and fins. The absence of large sharks, scientists say, has ramifications farther down the marine food chain as their prey—skates, rays, and smaller sharks—are now far more numerous and have been decimating scallop beds along the Eastern seaboard.

An average of six people in the entire world died every year from 2005 to 2014 due to shark attacks. Roughly one person in the U.S. suffers from a fatal attack every year, lower than the rate for death by balloons, televisions, and vending machines.

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Aaron Mak

Aaron Mak writes about technology for Slate.