Betting on Sharks

Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Just before the Fourth of July weekend, an outfit called announced that bets could be placed on the sharks swimming around in the Atlantic and whether they are offshore here in the Hamptons or anywhere else in a particular timeframe.

The head oddsmaker of MyBookie, David Strauss (The New York Times points out that Strauss is his “professional” name), noting there had been a serious decline in betting since many sporting events had been cancelled heading into summer, had latched onto the idea of betting on the sharks and who among them might get somewhere first to sort of take up the slack.

The betting would not be just on any shark. MyBookie was aware, as are many of us, that there is an organization that rounds up sharks and fits them with GPS beeping tags to help determine their migration and behavior patterns. Many tend to swim further south in the winter months and north in the summer—which is when the dangerous and laborious art of tagging them takes place here off Nova Scotia, Cape Cod, the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore and the Outer Banks. So far, the nonprofit scientific organization Ocearch has tagged nearly 400 sharks.

On their website, Ocearch has a map of the East Coast that in real time shows each shark’s location. They also allow the online public to propose names for each shark, which Ocearch considers and then assigns to one shark or another. (Unama’ki has been tracked near Montauk.) MyBookie, looking online at this world of sharks, chose nine great whites to place bets upon. You might race them or bet on how often their tag would beep. But the gambling site had the betting open, $50 to $5000, for only a very short time when they heard from Ocearch members requesting that MyBookie put a stop to it.

According to the Times, Ocearch and MyBookie negotiating to see where this all might lead. It seems to me that a deal with MyBookie might go a long way in getting better public awareness about sharks, an interest in ecology and nature and, well, maybe just a lot more hits.

The Shark Betting area is still there on MyBookie, alongside the NFL, MLB, the NBA and so forth and so on, but the message under Shark Betting says “There are currently no lines available for this sport. Either there are no odds open to bet on, or the sport is not in season at this time. You can check back soon…”

This story was first reported in Forbes, which caters to Wall Street—where betting on things goes on in a big way. (A Wall Street trader will bet on how many times a tennis ball you throw will bounce before hitting a wall on the trading floor.) A follow-up story in The New York Times featured interviews with Melissa Cristia Marquez, head of Fins United Initiative, Chris Fischer, founder of Ocearch, and others. Opinions were expressed to and fro. Of course, nobody seemed to have thought about what the sharks might think.

In any case, having read this, I downloaded the Ocearch app and now with the press of a button can see where all the sharks are in real time.

This afternoon, here, sitting under an umbrella at Main Beach in East Hampton, I am offering my services to anyone who wants to come by—six feet distancing, of course—curious to know if there is a shark at this moment swimming close to our pavilion. It could be important information, of course, and I can answer that question in a jiffy. I do this at no charge, but there is a caveat, which I tell whoever asks. The caveat is that I am reporting only on the 385 particular sharks who have tags on them, and I am not reporting on the 500,000 or so other sharks that swim around in the ocean off our shores, gobbling up whatever they gobble up, because they do not come up on my cell phone.

So it’s sort of a crap shoot.

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