Sunday, July 12, 2009

Abomination 3.2.

Contrary to what the title suggests, this is actually about some good news.
For once!

Remember the drunken Shark fishermen of Delray Beach?
According to this interesting article in the Sun Sentinel, the Authorities are planning to shut them down. However, this is not quite a done deal. Land based fishing is a very popular pastime in Florida where it is being viewed as a relatively inexpensive alternative to boat-based fishing and the fishermen are planning to vigorously defend their right to pursue their hobby.

I was initially all gung-ho about putting them out of business - but like always, it may not quite be as clear cut as it may appear at first glance. After all, these guys seem to practice catch and release, and some of the arguments they field do make a lot of sense.

Let me cite them as I've also posted the arguments of the proponents of a ban.

1) Shark fishing from a beach does not put at risk swimmers.
2) Most shark attacks occur in murky water when a shark mistakes a surfer for a thrashing fish
3) A hooked shark has never attacked a swimmer
4) Shark fishing takes place in the evening mostly when bathers are out of the water
5) We do not chum sharks to a beach (that would be absurd), we drop our baits 200 to 500 yards away from the beach.
6) We do not attract sharks to the beach , they already live and thrive there.
7) Dead fish often wash up on the beach ,,,,,,it is the ocean after all .
Why ban shark fishing ? Why not ban all fishing from the beach ?
Truth be told Tarpon fishing or fishing for any other type of fish attracts more sharks to the shoreline then land-based shark fishing.When a hooked fish is struggling on a fishing line it sends out distress signals that sharks home in on. A shark is attracted to our shark bait that sits well away from shore, those sharks naturally feed in those areas and also come in at night to mate. In all actuality sharks are drawn in toward the shoreline to chase the hooked fish a fisherman reels in. The simple TRUTH!!!
We are unfairly being targeted and discriminated based on people's fear of sharks and the desire to keep regular folks out of the rich seaside towns.

I'm particularly sold on the argument that chumming for and catching regular Fish may well be a stronger attractant of Sharks than Shark fishing itself. I also believe those voices that claim that Sharks frequent the beaches at night as part of their natural hunting, and maybe also breeding cycles.

From what I can discern, the pro-ban proponents are pursuing the following aims:
  • Shark Conservation - and if so, enforcing strict catch and release regulations should do the job. This was the compromise reached in Ft. Myers and this is what the Shark Free Marinas Project is aiming at. Yes game fishing for Sharks, like all hobby fishing and hunting is somewhat disturbing - but that's am ethical, not a legal question. One has to pick one's fights and trying to ban fishing per se is neither achievable nor quite frankly necessary as long as threatened animals (endangered Sharks but also all other endangered Fish species) are being released.
  • Safety - and if so, one must be very very careful not to speculate but to be well documented about the causalities. Otherwise, one ends up doing exactly the same as the proponents of a Shark viewing ban in Hawaii. Maybe the most effective way of ensuring the safety of the beaches would indeed be a total fishing ban. Maybe the Sharks are really always there, fishing or no fishing. Maybe, there could be mutually exclusive recreational and fishing zones.
  • Law and Order - and if so, the police should ensure everybody's orderly conduct.
Yes coming from a Shark conservationist, all of the above may sound bizarre indeed!
My concern is that despite of our passion, we must always remain and thus be perceived as fact-based and credible. We must also be solution-oriented and sometimes, we must be willing to reach a compromise (where each side makes concessions) in order to reach our aims.
And finally, using the fear of Shark attacks to promote Shark Conservation makes me cringe.

Anyway, just a thought.

But if the situation in Delray may be nuanced, here's some unequivocally good news: a local taxidermist is flatly refusing to mount any more Sharks and this is prompting some local game fishermen to exclusively practice catch & release.

And Guy Harvey, himself an avid fisherman, is working on having the IGFA scrap keeping world records for some specially endangered Sharks like Great Hammerheads and Tigers, where all record animals are undoubtedly pregnant females, i.e. the specially valuable breeding stock. It's about time those guys adopted the same rules that have long been accepted by the hunters.
Fingers crossed, that would be such an important step in the right direction!

Slowly slowly, bit-by-bit, Florida seems to be inching towards a substantially more pro-Shark attitude.
Just great!

No comments: