A Maine beauty pageant contestant and her shark-wrangling boyfriend are back in the news for their controversial hobby of catching, photographing and tagging sharks for scientific research.

The Boston Globe on Saturday published the latest article about Elliot Sudal, a veteran shark angler dubbed “The Shark Wrestler,” and the criticism of the way he catches and tags sharks on beaches, including on Nantucket. Criticism of Sudal’s activities – and his motivations – intensified after his girlfriend, Marisa Butler, a former beauty pageant contestant from Standish, began shark fishing with him last October. Butler, 21, was criticized last month for shark fishing off the coast of Florida and Nantucket and posing in a bathing suit for photos with the live sharks before the fish were released with tracking tags as part of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration volunteer shark-tagging program.

Butler, the former Miss Sebago Lakes Region 2014 and Miss Maine National Sweetheart 2013, defended the practice in a Portland Press Herald article last month by saying she tags sharks to spread awareness about them and to change public opinion about sharks.

The aim of the tagging program is to provide data for the management of large Atlantic sharks, but Sharon Young of the Humane Society of the United States told The Globe that Sudal’s activities “speak to me more of exhibitionism than they do of conservation.”

 


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