Whilst I was away, the shit has hit the fan.
And yes, having been asked and after much deliberation, I'm gonna wade right in - and I may add, with much trepidation! :)
Please read David and Neil's paper about recreational Shark fishing in Florida. At the time, I did applaud it as the way I read it then, it aims at advocating catch-and-release as a more benign alternative to (lethal) trophy fishing.
After having re-read it, I stand by that judgment.
But of course, there is a big BUT - and here's where Ila comes in!
You must now read the op-ed by Ila - not this
censored edited version but the original that includes the contentious assertions about the paper and its authors.
You can find it (after a toothy intro) here.
The reaction was of course immediate.
David did post this and his interventions with Live Science did lead to the abovementioned editing - and totally unsurprisingly, things have since escalated. The usual tribalism is king and there is now a David camp vociferating against the Ila camp and vice versa, and what could have been an interesting discussion has long become irrational and personalized and is really benefiting no-one anymore.
From what I can discern, the question about whether Fish in general and Sharks in particular feel pain remains largely unresolved, with both camps being able to cite scientific literature in support of their viewpoint - but do those minutiae really matter in the present case?
Whether it is "pain" like we perceive it (from what I can observe, probably not) or another sense of acute discomfort, it is pretty much evident that being hooked is certainly a traumatic event that will always have negative consequences for the Sharks. Even if the animals are being released, some of the consequences will be transient and some will be more permanent and possibly debilitating - but a considerable percentage of the Sharks will die, and this depending on a whole array of variables ranging from the fishing technique to the length of the fight to the handling of the animal to the Sharks' species-specific resilience, etc etc.
With that in mind, the topic of catch-and-release fishing for Sharks touches on animal welfare all the way to Shark conservation and on that, I'm 100% with Ila in stating that it is certainly never "good".
But here's where I differ - reluctantly!
I am a recreational fisherman. Although I strictly fish for food, and this only for non-threatened species, I'm not gonna try to deceive and obfuscate and state clearly that I certainly do so principally for the thrill and the challenge. I understand that this will disappoint some purists, but this is how it is. I could also add that for obvious reasons (= I love Sharks and yes, they are not Trout!) and because technically, Shark fishing sucks, I'm totally against targeting Sharks - but that's not the point.
The point is that there is thousands upon thousands of people like me. The point is that in this real world we live in as opposed to some idealistic but equally unrealistic utopia, they constitute an economically important, powerful and well organized force whereby if we really want to further the cause of Shark conservation among the recreational fishermen, we must learn to work with and not against them - re-read this.
Again: reluctantly - but that's the only viable strategy!
David and Neil know that.
I've now followed them for many a year and there has been considerable evolution - incidentally, like with yours truly, read these posts bottom-to-top! The net result of their efforts and those of many other equally evolving Shark conservation advocates has been, among others, the reforming of several kill tournaments, the establishment of the Shark Free Marinas Initiative (again, read bottom-to-top), the adoption of length- instead of weight records by the land-based Shark fishermen, etc - by no means perfect but still a notable step in the right direction.
With that in mind and like their recent paper against weight records, the chastised article is not proof of their affiliation to nefarious fishing interests like asserted but rather, a testament to David and Neil's advocacy of positive, albeit (only) gradual and organic reform!
And one last thought if I may.
Whereas the Hammerschlag labs are simply brilliant in their outreach, they continue to fail quite miserably in handling critique, be it ever so benign. Guys, in the softest possible way: if you publicly circulate your research in the mass- and social media, you must a) develop a better strategy for dealing with the inevitable, equally public and possibly unsubstantiated criticism and b) develop a thicker skin - and I can certainly spare myself the examples as I'm sure you understand!
Or not? :)
End of wading!
Comments policy: read this! :)