Or you can purchase the book on amazon – When you read about a shark attack in the paper, do you shake your head, mutter “a shame,” and head for the next headline? You’re no different from most people then. Sure, your eyes may rest on the words a while if its particularly gruesome: a leg ripped off or the person is pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital because of the loss of blood. You can’t do anything about it, so read on, get to the horoscope.
When Captain Bill Goldschmitt reads those same words, his blood runs cold. He’s a (former) commercial shark fisherman who, between 1967 and 1985, captured, documented, studied, cleaned and sold over 6000 sharks. He, more than anyone, knows the facts about sharks and is incensed over the continual cover-ups that put money over human lives. He knows these attacks could be prevented, if not for the greed of so many and the fact that others perceive mankind as menace to the shark, not the other way around.
Sharkman of Cortez is Captain Bill Goldschmitt’s story. Read about the true nature of sharks not presented in other books or in the media. It’s a study of mother nature and human nature against the backdrop of Southwest Florida’s pristine Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Islands in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Inspired by childhood visits to the Miami Seaquarium, in 1967 Bill runs away from frozen Pittsburgh and lands himself on a picnic table at Siesta Key Beach. Caught up in the euphoric haze of sixties beach life, he begins to carve out a life loving and fishing. When his girlfriend, Beach Lynn, runs off to San Francisco and Bill’s German Shepard is eaten alive by a hammerhead shark off Miromar Beach, he becomes consumed by love-hate for the beasts. At first, driven by his killer instinct, he realizes he has what it takes to hunt down sharks. Later, through extensive documentation and ingenuity, he pioneers catching sharks live and transporting them to area aquariums; he maintains them alive in open water pens at Mote Marine Laboratory, where the relationship between shark fisherman and scientists remains rocky. He learns that Mote scientists and shark experts have a professional or financial stake in shark protection and the whole advocacy racket.
Even before the epic Jaws movies, our self-taught shark hunter builds saltwater aquariums and opens a shop in Siesta Village; he builds a cage, drops underwater and takes photos of the man-eating sharks face-to-face. Later, he introduces to third generation fisherman in the fishing village of Cortez, sharkmeat for crab bait, selling tons of meat to close-knit fishermen who are weary of outsiders.
The public fascination for sharks doesn’t temper the obsticals Captain Bill faces however: the Chamber of Commerce sends the Health Department to Bill’s shop threatening to shut him down; media coverage dries up in an effort to pander to the tourist dollar; red tide hits, killing off his live sharks; development consumes Southwest’s Florida’s pristine beaches – choking off fishing; all this while shark attacks abound statewide and nationwide.
In the early eighties, government fishing regulations settle in. Bill has moved to Longboat Key and continues capturing rogue, beach loafing sharks near shore. He feels he’s keeping the beaches safe from attacks so at first doesn’t believe the regulations can touch him. But as the livelihoods of Cortez fishermen dry up, so does the market for shark meat. Even charters can’t support Captain Bill’s shark fishing. Cortez becomes a gentrified village of fru-fru-drink sipping tourists and Bill’s livelihood withers. Shark encounters become the least of human worries as new predators gain momentum: The National Marine Fisheries Service, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a slew of other self-proclaimed shark experts join an ever growing Government intervention to protect The Shark. Commercial fishermen are under attack.
Since 1985, without people like Bill to keep the truth about sharks in public forefront, the image of sharks has become one of a fantasy. Developers claim “our beaches are safe.” The Discovery Channel’s Shark Week draws millions of viewers and claims more sharks perish by the hooks of fishermen than people to sharks. (Little comfort to those who fall victim). It has become politically correct to jump on the Environmentalist bandwagon. The entire public opinion of sharks has been fogged over with impossibly thin and unsupported statistics about declining numbers and why they attack. (Maybe they’re hungry??) Human legs get ripped off because of a complete disregard for human safety.
The aging old hunter wonders where the sympathy is for the victims of shark attacks. Instead, there are efforts to limit fishing as part of extreme preservation policies. Catch and release is the New Sport and all public sympathy goes to the poor shark!
Captain Bill’s story will take you through a critical time in pre-boom Florida, a past not quite touched upon in the nostalgia of Jimmy Buffet songs, in the stories of John D. MacDonald or in the memories of old midwestern snowbirds. You’ll read Sharkman of Cortez, learn about Florida’s fishing past and wonder, “What happened?”
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