Beauty pageant contestant Marisa Butler of Standish has been criticized for an unusual volunteer activity – pulling sharks out of the ocean after catching them with rod and reel and tagging the animals while wearing a swimsuit for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But two shark experts say she may actually be harming the sharks, ABC News reported.

“The simple fact that they’re pulling the shark out of the water on the beach leaves little hope that this shark is actually going to survive,” shark expert and conservationist Jim Abernethy told ABC News.

Butler does her shark fishing with a veteran shark angler named Elliot Sudal off the coasts of Florida and Nantucket as part of NOAA’s cooperative shark tagging program, conducted under the administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service. It is a collaborative effort among commercial and recreational fishermen and NOAA to study the history of sharks in the Atlantic Ocean.

On Thursday, the 21-year-old Butler, the former Miss Sebago Lakes Region 2014 and Miss Maine National Sweetheart 2013, posted an explanation of her interest in sharks on her Facebook page “Marisa Butler Public Figure.”

“The majority of sharks tagged in this program are from recreational anglers like myself. I have only recently began fishing – let alone shark fishing – and am still in the learning process,” Butler wrote. Butler wrote that she tags sharks to spread awareness about them and to change public opinion about them.

“As for those who claim this is just a way for me to gain fame I have less followers than most 13-year-old girls and do not post regularly,” she wrote. Butler said she does not contact media outlets and has only granted interviews to two reporters. “You be the judge.”

ABC News reported Thursday that Butler has tagged more than 30 sharks. But Drew Scerbo, a scientific adviser to White Shark Advocacy, questioned her motives, wondering if she was doing it merely to get publicity.

“Not a lot of people view sharks as something that needs to be saved,” Butler told ABC News. “Seventy to 100 million sharks are killed yearly, and people just don’t know about it.

Photos of her tagging the sharks have appeared on Grind TV, an action-sports, lifestyle network.

“If we are getting a beautiful photo that gets people to see that sharks are something that needs to be protected, then why not use that photo?” Butler asked.


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