Coun. Mitic Catches Online Furor With Shot Shark Picture
Coun. Jody Mitic is pledging to be “less meathead, less tough guy,” but he’s not backing down from a debate he kicked up by circulating a photo of a dead shark with a caption reading, “I shot it in the face to finish it off.”
Social media was flooded with comments criticizing the councillor for the insensitive wording, while others quickly took to Mitic’s defence.
Mitic eventually took the photo down, then posted it again with a different caption.
“The wording was a very aggressive way to put it. I acknowledge that, but I don’t apologize for it,” Mitic said.
Mitic said he spent the weekend along the New Jersey shore taking part in a charity tournament for Operation Restored Warrior, which provides help to veterans suffering from PTSD and other combat-related afflictions. Mitic said the third annual shark fishing derby raised around $150,000 for the cause.
Mitic, a Canadian Forces veteran and a former sniper, said despite the prize-winning catch, his proudest moment of the weekend came when he was asked to speak to veterans about the charity’s success stories — Mitic said that since 2011 the charity has helped 700 veterans who once contemplated suicide, and “none have relapsed.”
Still, he expected to stir up some controversy by posting the photo.
“It was never my intent to upset anybody, but I do know putting a picture of a dead shark would make some people a little uncomfortable,” he said, adding he wished there was a “sarcasm font” available for the contentious caption, and acknowledging he’s been in trouble before on social media for his “dry, military humour.”
“I’m not going to fault people and everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but I won’t tolerate people trying to dictate how I should live my life when I’m not breaking any laws or doing anything immoral,” he said.
Several of those who took their complaints to social media pointed out the species of shark — a 367-pound “dinosaur” Mako shark, according to Mitic’s caption — is listed as “vulnerable,” or one rank below “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The IUCN cites sport fishing as one of the contributing factors to the species’ population decline, though the classification has not been updated since 2004.
“I wouldn’t participate in anything against an endangered animal, and if I thought there was going to be any damage to the ecology, I wouldn’t have been involved,” he said.
Mitic said tournament organizers grilled and served the shark for dinner after it was weighed.
As for shooting the shark once it had been caught, Mitic said it’s standard practice when hauling a live shark onto a fishing boat, but he said he was as surprised as anyone when his crewmates handed him the gun.
“They said, ‘You’re the sniper, we’d like you to (shoot) it,’” Mitic said.
Mitic said tournament rules dictated only one shark per boat, and there were a limited number of sharks allowed for the entire tournament. Mitic said a total of three Mako sharks were caught.
“I understand people’s reaction,” he said. “But I got bummed out when people started to get really nasty toward me, toward my family and toward each other. So I turned it off and tuned it out and I took down the original tweet — it was getting to be too much negativity attached to a very positive cause.”