Donald Trump’s fear of sharks cited for boosting donations to conservation groups

This undated image released by Discovery Channel shows a great white shark.
This undated image released by Discovery Channel shows a great white shark. Discovery Channel via AP

U.S. President Donald Trump’s apparent hatred of sharks has benefited some conservation charities, with many reporting a surge in donations in the president’s name.

The bump in donations appears to stem from comments Trump allegedly made to porn star Stormy Daniels, comments that became public last week after In Touch Weekly released an interview in which she claimed she had an affair with Trump.

Daniels told the tabloid that Trump is “obsessed with” and “terrified” of sharks.

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“He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks,’” the adult film star claims Trump said. “’I hope all the sharks die.’”

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Trump was apparently watching a Shark Week special when made the comments, according to Daniels. The woman also claims Trump had paid her $130,000 to stay silent about the alleged affair.

As business website Market Watch first reported, shark-related charities have seen a boost in donations to their causes. Many of the donations have mentioned Trump specifically.

“We have been receiving donations in Trump’s name since the story was published,” Cynthia Wilgren, chief executive officer and co-founder of Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, told Market Watch.

Paul Watson, Canadian environmentalist and founder of the non-profit Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) told Market Watch his organization had received “quite a few” donations that specifically mentioned Trump’s apparent comments.

Though the SSCS views Trump’s comments as “ignorant,” Watson told the business website: “Anything that focuses attention on the plight of sharks worldwide is valuable, so I guess in that way the president did good service.”

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On Wednesday, Watson issued a statement after receiving apparent backlash for speaking out about Trump’s alleged anti-shark comments.

“Yesterday some Trump supporters were angry with Sea Shepherd because we responded to media inquiries about statements allegedly made by the President that sharks should be eradicated,” Watson wrote on Facebook. “I did say that the president was ignorant on the subject because the president is in fact ignorant on the subject. But I also said his remarks were beneficial to sharks because of the attention his remarks have brought to the cause, so well done Mr. President.”

Watson went on to point out that Trump “may or may not have made the remarks about sharks but Sea Shepherd never accused him of doing so.”

“What we did was to respond to these alleged remarks to the media that contacted us,” Watson wrote. “The remarks were however given credibility by the fact that Donald Trump publicly made similar remarks before he was President. He also recently consumed sharkfin soup and dismissed people’s concerns for sharks.”

In 2013, Trump tweeted that he wasn’t a “fan of sharks” and the sea creatures “are last on my list.”

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“President Trump does seem to think that sharks are extremely dangerous and of course I disagree with him about that but he should not be afraid of sharks because playing golf is far more dangerous than swimming or surfing in the ocean,” Watson wrote. “On average, only five people die every year from shark bites whereas as many more die every year from playing golf due to lightning strikes or bee stings.”

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SSCS estimates over 100 million sharks are killed every year and are caught mainly for their fins.

Last year, Watson and the SSCS aided in the search for Toronto filmmaker and conservationist Rob Stewart who went missing during a scuba dive off the Florida coast. Stewart was best known for his award-winning 2006 documentary Sharkwater and was a former Sea Shepherd crew member. Watson worked with the filmmaker in 2002 to produce Sharkwater. Stewart’s body was found three days after he was reported missing.

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