Rosie O'Donnell tried humor Tuesday to defang critics of her shark fishing excursions in Miami Beach, where her family caught and killed huge hammerheads.
"I'm Rosie O'Donnell here with an important public service announcement about endangered sharks," she said, gazing seriously at the camera on her show. "Recently I was fishing with my kids and my daughter caught a shark legally, safely, with a net. But he was too small, so we threw him back into the ocean unharmed. Now he's slimy, free and back hosting Celebrity Apprentice."
O'Donnell drew heavy criticism from conservation groups after photos surfaced of her and her children with dead great or scalloped hammerhead sharks hanging from hooks on the boat of Miami Beach shark fishermen Mark "The Shark" Quartiano. Although fishing for these species had been legal at the time - at least one photo was from 2010 - the state of Florida banned the killing of them as of Jan. 1 and they have long been considered overfished. Hammerheads are among the most sought-after sharks to serve the demand in China for shark-fin soup, a delicacy served at banquets, weddings and expensive restaurants.
On her show Tuesday O'Donnell staged a quiz on shark science with Sheldon the Shark, a quizmaster dressed in a fuzzy hammerhead costume. He tossed true-or-false questions to O'Donnell and her guest NeNe Leakes, star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, such as "You're more likely to be bitten by another person than a shark" (True) and "Sharks live in the jungle" (False).
The entire episode is not available online, but a writer for the Huffington Post reported that O'Donnell directly addressed her own trips: "O'Donnell said that the practice hadn't been illegal at the time, and that she wouldn't fish for a hammerhead again," HuffPost reported.
"In one final twist, a man dressed up as an angry hammerhead head showed up to "occupy the Rosie Show." He threatened her children, or as he called them, the "veal of the sea," according to HuffPost. "But Rosie insisted, "I'm actually a friend of all animals."
"Remember hammerhead sharks are endangered," O'Donnell said, according to the web site. "Treat them well."