The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy is constantly on the hunt for donations to help keep its research efforts each summer on the oceans off Cape Cod going strong.
But recent contributions sent to the nonprofit organization required no bait. For that, they have an unlikely person to thank: President Trump.
In an explosive interview from 2011 with adult film star Stormy Daniels that was published by In Touch Weekly earlier this month, she detailed an alleged affair with Trump. In it, she mentioned a series of bizarre comments he reportedly made about his disdain for sharks while they were together in a hotel room. Since then, the conservancy has seen a sharp and sudden spike in money coming in from first-time donors who want to help fund the group’s conservation research — mainly to spite the president.
“We did see a bump in donations,” said Cynthia Wigren, president of the conservancy, which just wrapped the fourth year of a five-year population study of the predators with the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries. “It wasn’t anything the conservancy did to capitalize on this. It just happened to benefit us.”
The In Touch Weekly report quoted Daniels as saying Trump was watching “Shark Week” when she arrived at his hotel one time.
“He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks,” she claimed, according to the 2011 interview. “He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ ”
The donations were further bolstered by a MarketWatch report this week that quoted Wigren as saying that several people had sent money to the nonprofit in Trump’s name. Other shark-research organizations have also seen “a steady stream of donations,” the report said.
Since that story appeared online, Wigren added, the number of donations has quickly soared, standing at approximately 40 individual contributions as of Thursday afternoon.
“Donations have varied and ranged between $10 to $100,” she said. “It’s definitely hundreds, maybe over $1,000 at this point.”
The money is coming in through the organization’s website, with notes attached. One said: “Trump hates [sharks] and I love them. It’s a win-win,” Wigren said.
This isn’t the first time that people have donated funds to an organization in response to — and in protest of — the Trump administration.
In November of last year, shortly after Trump and Vice President Mike Pence took office, people started sending money to Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts in Pence’s name.
While what Trump said about sharks is based entirely on Daniels’s personal account, the president has taken to Twitter to note that he’s not a fan of the finned creatures.
“Sharks are last on my list — other than perhaps the losers and haters of the World!” Trump tweeted in 2013.
Another tweet from Trump’s account, long before he became president, said, “Sorry folks, I’m just not a fan of sharks — and don’t worry, they will be around long after we are gone.”
Sharks are last on my list - other than perhaps the losers and haters of the World!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2013
Sorry folks, I'm just not a fan of sharks - and don't worry, they will be around long after we are gone.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2013
Wigren said the money from donors will be used to fund this summer’s research efforts, the final year of the five-year study they’ve been conducting off the coast of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham.
She said they weren’t fund-raising at the time Daniels’s allegations came to light, making the sudden spike in funds a plus for the organization’s work.
“We were prepping for doing appeals to fund the upcoming research. It’s the final year of the population study, so it’s a big and significant year for the conservancy and the research in general,” she said. “All of this money will be going to help support the programs, and we are grateful for the support.”
Monetary gains aside, Wigren said the exposure also helps spread the word about the important role sharks play in the ecosystem. The conservancy strives to educate the public about sharks, steering them away from fearing the ocean creatures.
“It’s nice to see people talking about sharks and shark conservation,” she said. “Just seeing that many individuals — it’s better to see over 40 different people send in donations because that’s showing a lot of traction and eyes on what we are doing, rather than one large donation.”
Though, she added, if someone wanted to spend $2,500 towards Cape Cod shark research, they could name one of the sharks the group tags after Trump.
“That is always an option,” she hinted, laughing.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.