Saturday, July 25, 2009

Answer to a Comment

The anglers are pissed off.

What was a short and noncommittal post mentioning Delray Beach has triggered a surprising response. At the same time, the usually irreproachable and intelligent Sharky has waded in knee-deep and is using the same unfortunate arguments.

Before I post my answer to that comment, here's where I stand on some of the issues raised.

I haven't met Jimmy Abernethy personally and am on record for being unconvinced by some of his apparent procedures (and never having dived with him, I'm also on record for reserving my final judgment on that) and for being disappointed that his signature dive site, Tiger Beach, is not being protected and is being thrashed by other operators.
These ad personam attacks are however totally uncalled for, especially the underhanded reference to the tragic accident of Markus Groh. Jimmy loves Sharks and together with Gary Adkison, he is without a doubt the one person that has single-handedly introduced the most people to Sharks and turned them into Shark lovers in the process. His fans and followers are legion and many of them have embarked on the path of Shark Conservation after having dived with him. This is his legacy - and not the accident, as an equally unfortunate comment has suggested.

Trophy hunting and trophy fishing have no possible justification, ethical or otherwise.
I'm all for hunting and fishing for food, as long as the species are not endangered and as long as the animals are dispatched humanely.
Yes I realize that some believe that the thrill of stalking a prey or of wrestling with a large Fish is "fun" - but this is the 21st century and we must all progress from our troglodyte origins towards being modern and civilized human beings with ethical imperatives. Killing (and also, torturing) animals for the thrill alone will never meet those prerequisites, ever. And I may be repeating myself - real men just don't do that!
This is an example of that kind of behavior - and yes, those were land-based anglers!

I believe that good conservation should be based on consensual and pragmatic solutions.
But not necessarily always. Sometimes, as in Ft. Myers, the anglers need to be shown the "stick" in order to agree to come to the negotiating table. Very rarely, the pro-Shark faction is just being dealt the better hand and if so, they should certainly play it. The good people of Delray Beach have every right to decide about what happens on their beach and if the decision is to ban Shark fishing, I can only applaud it. After all, my thing is Shark conservation, not diplomatic relations and universal peace and justice.

That said, over to my response.
It got longer and longer and finally, Blogger refused to accept it in the comments section - so there.

Thank you for your comment.

I however disagree with your standpoint in so many ways.

a. Catch & release is not a "good thing" - not to fish for Sharks is.
Yes, catch & release is certainly better than killing - but it is cruel and unneccessary nevertheless.

Look, I'm an angler myself and although I don't target them, I sometimes hook a Billfish.
Like any responsible catch & release angler, I will try and get the Fish to the boat in the shortest time possible and with the minimum of stress to the animal.
That involves maneuvering the boat in such a way that the Fish is not being muscled in during a protracted fight, to the point where it may even die of exhaustion. The release is then effected immediately whilst the animal is submerged and often, it involves "walking" the animal in order to aerate its gills until it can then swim away under its own power.

All evidence suggests that often, land-based Shark fishermen do not act that way, especially when they hook big animals.
The Sharks can only be landed once they are completely exhausted. Often, they get dragged onto the beach where considerable time is spent taking measurements and posing for pictures.
This is certainly extremely stressful for the animals and it is only fair to assume that some will not survive that treatment.
This is not cool.

If they want to gain any "credibility",
the land-based anglers must be asked to review their procedures when catching and releasing Sharks.

b. Jim Abernethy (with an "e") is uniquely positioned to comment about the dangers of baiting for Sharks ("chumming" is something else - and I sure hope the Shark anglers don't do that!) precisely BECAUSE he operates baited Shark dives and thus knows intimately how the animals behave in those conditions.

Like us here in Fiji, he does it well away from any beaches and surface oriented aquatic recreationists. And like us, he does not allow any snorkelers, swimmers, nor even free divers on those trips.
And for good reason!
Once you bait for Sharks, they behave differently - even smaller piscivorous species like Blacktips and Carribean Reefs. Whereas divers can minimize risks by displaying adequate behavior, people at the surface become particularly vulnerable to the threat of attracting the Sharks' attention and being bitten as a consequence.

To cut to the chase, fishing (for Sharks but also for other Fishes) and surface-oriented beach activities like swimming and body surfing just don't go together.
Would you feel safe to go and have a dip right next to where some anglers deploy bait or drag in struggling Fish? Really? I for sure would not!

I've said it before: the chicken have come home to roost.
Jimmy and other Shark operators have been chased out of Florida by people claiming that his "chumming" (mind you - way offshore) was a public safety hazard - and now some of the very same groups are claiming that doing the precise same thing directly on the beach is unproblematic!
If there's an issue of credibility, it certainly does not reside with Jim.

c. I was not at the meeting (were you?) and don't know if and what pictures were presented, and how.
But one has only to surf the website of the South Florida Shark Club and view the many YouTube clips featuring land based fishing to see that the behavior displayed is sometimes problematic (and I'm being polite).
In that light, it is really of no importance where the pictures presented were taken - it's pretty obvious that there is no common code of conduct and that the allegations of rowdy behavior, littering, Shark kills, daytime fishing and chumming are certainly plausible.
In fact, I just happen to know somebody completely and utterly un-involved in this matter who lives there - and having asked, that person has confirmed some of the above grievances.

To sum it up, dragging in Fish and Sharks from a beach in a residential area is problematic.
There's a reason why hunters go hunting in the wilderness and not in city parks - and this is not much different.

If the land-based anglers want to pursue their activities in Delray Beach, they will have to assuage the reservations of the residents, the more since many of the anglers don't live there. It is for them, not the residents of Delray Beach, to do the convincing, to come up with viable solutions and compromises and to have their members stick to some acceptable code of conduct.
Barring that, they will need to go fishing somewhere else.


Sharky said...

It is possible I was manipulated, but not by the initial poster of the comment. I could change my statements on thechumslick, but I already did once, and doing it again would make me look like a jackass. So barring any new information, I am shutting up on this can read my response on my blog if you want.

I will never, ever, be in favor of Shark Fishing. I will never like people who fish for Sharks. I do not like catch-and-release Shark fishing either, I just think a Shark Killing ban rather than a no "bait cutting" ban would be easier to enforce.

I do like what you had to say in this post by the way.


the usually irreproachable and intelligent Sharky

Sharky said...

Oh, and note I did change the spelling of "Abernethy."

DaShark said...

Thank you Sharky - you're a good man.

I totally agree, they should have banned all land-based fishing outright!
Alas, they apparently tried to appease everybody and did end up with an awkward ordinance that will be difficult to enforce.

BTW I very much enjoy and respect the opinions you post. Keep up the good work.

Tafa said...

look at it this way, when sharky takes a nibble at you in confusion its a big issue. And well when we go sticking around hooks in their mouths then its sports fishing....

Ironic dont you think, we hurt then willingly and its perfectly fine, but when they mistake us for their food and hurts us then they are a menace, I reckon it should be the other way around, atleast they dont come onland to take a bit at us.

DaShark said...