THE GREAT WHITE RED ALERT
Tyler sat in the flight deck of the Sea Worthy. That’s right: the flight deck. The hydroplane had transformed into a large, very fast jet plane — with just the push of a couple of buttons. The team was now flying at 1000 kilometers per hour at an altitude of 10,000 meters toward Cape Town, South Africa where the alert had originated. They had taken off from San Miguel Island shortly after getting back aboard the boat from their dive.
While Tyler prepared for their twenty-hour flight to the other side of the world, Alena v-mailed their parents, letting them know where they were going, and when they might return. Another v-mail to school arranged for online classes—no sense missing a biology midterm. She checked the Nous Venons, tucked snugly in the hold, then the cupboards and the refrigerator, deciding they could put up with veggie burgers and salads while they were in the air. She grinned when she saw there was an unopened box of Walker’s Stem Ginger Biscuits on a shelf. The twins always fought over who got the most of the delicious cookies. Making sure Tyler was busy, she tucked the box away in a bulkhead compartment behind a stack of lifejackets.
“This is your Captain speaking. Flight attendants prepare for take¬off.” Tyler liked using the intercom system.
Alena shook her head. He thinks he’s so funny.
“And don’t forget to bring that box of ginger biscuits up to the flight deck,” Tyler added. Busted by the ship’s video system!
Alena sighed. It’s going to be a long flight.
The Sea Worthy was on autopilot, and the twins were getting a video update from Jakob Bheka, the S.O.S. Foundation’s representative in South Africa, who had sent the alert.
“Two hundred dollars!” Tyler exclaimed. “Who pays two hundred dollars for a bowl of soup!?”
“Thoughtless people with too much money,” Jakob said. His dark, serious face stared back at the twins from one of the high-definition video displays. “We had a report that jaws from a great white sold for fifty-thousand dollars.” He took off his glasses to polish the lenses—something he did when he was upset or nervous. Right now he was upset, though his voice remained calm.
“But South Africa was the first country in the world to pass laws protecting great white sharks. Aren’t they being enforced?” asked Alena.
“They are,” Jakob said, putting his glasses back on. “And the authorities stop a lot of the killing. But shark fins and jaws are still some of the most expensive animal products in the world. And remember, shark finning is a multi-million dollar industry benefiting from the sale of shark fins used in Asian soups and Chinese medicines which are more popular than ever. Especially when they’re made from the fins of a great white.”
“But by the time the fins are dried, bleached and dried again, they have to add chicken stock to make it taste like anything,” Alena said.
Jakob sighed. “It’s not the flavor they’re paying for, it’s the status. Just showing they can afford something that expensive.”
“Last we heard the United Nations estimated over 100-million sharks are killed every year,” Alena said.
“So who’s doing the killing there? And how do we find them and stop them?” Tyler asked.
The quiet hiss of the plane’s systems filled the silence as Jakob looked at them. Finally he said, “That’s why I called you. We don’t know.”