The Cambrian

Local teacher’s shark-saving pedal pumping

Mark DiMaggio will spin his bike’s wheels for over 1,000 miles to help save sharks.
Mark DiMaggio will spin his bike’s wheels for over 1,000 miles to help save sharks. PHOTO BY GAYLENE EWING

When Mark DiMaggio of Cambria takes his summertime bicycle ride starting July 13, he also hopes to help eliminate a gruesome fishing practice.

The environmental science teacher also hopes to raise money to help combat finning, in which fishermen catch the large fish live, slice off their fins and then “throw the bleeding sharks back into the water to die,” a shuddering DiMaggio said.

The ride

He has set his sights high, literally. His 1,100 mile “Spinning to end Finning” ride will take him from Missoula, Mont., to Pueblo, Colo., and across the Continental Divide three times. “One mountain pass is about 11,000 feet high,” he said.

DiMaggio currently rides about 300 to 400 miles a month. He hopes to ride about 75 miles per day on the journey, pulling a little trailer filled with supplies and camping gear, which “slows you down by about 25 percent.”

People can donate to the cause (by the mile, if they wish) by credit card at endfinning.comor by sending a check payable to Pretoma to P.O. Box 889, Paso Robles CA 93447. All donations are tax deductible, and 100 percent of funds donated are to go toward shark conservation.

DiMaggio will be blogging about the ride at endfinning.com.

The cause

DiMaggio’s upcoming adventure was inspired by his students in Paso Robles and the shocking movie, “Sharkwater,” which “exposes this gigantic, multibillion dollar industry in Central and South America. A lot of finning is happening there.”

Pretoma estimates that 100 million sharks are killed annually for their fins.

Shark-fin soup is an expensive delicacy in some Asian cuisines, he said, and with the fast-growing Chinese economy, more people are able to buy the soup.

In the process, “sharks are being exploited,” DiMaggio said. “They’re taking sharks mostly on long lines, sometimes on 10-to 20-mile-long nylon lines with thousands of hooks.”

“Most shark populations worldwide are at historically low levels due to serious overfishing,” according to www.montereybayaquarium.org.

The website says “shark finning is banned in some countries, including the U.S., but still happens in many fisheries worldwide.”

Award-winning teacher

DiMaggio teaches earth and environmental science at Paso Robles High School, and an annual field biology summer course on Santa Cruz Island. In 2007, he was selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year. He also received the Bill Deneen award for environmental contributions and the San Luis Obispo Community Foundation’s environmental award for a sustained contribution to the community.

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