Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Catch&Release fishing for Sharks?

Sorry for the prolonged silence.
Much to do, all of it real good, and not much Sharky happening out there.

Except for this timely post by David.
I'm not, and never will be a member, or whatever, of any of those Shark lists and once again, David's post amply illustrates why.
Really, what is there to discuss and get so incensed about?

Fishing for Sharks sucks, period.
As a Shark lover, I fervently wish that nobody would do that.
I also fervently wish that everybody could live in harmony and that there were no wars.
Did anybody say tough luck ?

And what about a global fishing ban for Sharks?
Read my lips: it ain't gonna happen - incidentally, as with all global fishing bans!
This is the real world where every day, millions of hooks are baited for Sharks in order to aliment the global Shark fin trade. As conservationists, we can continue to totally waste our energies trying to enact a total global ban - or we can pursue smarter strategies and advocate sustainability that will preserve those fishing jobs and revenues forever, or in the case of Shark fishing, fight for finning bans that eliminate a profoundly unethical harvesting technique and ensure that at least all the protein of those Sharks is being utilized.
And yes, as David correctly points out, Shark researchers can, and should take advantage of the existing commercial Shark fisheries to gather valuable data. Case in point, these fantastic insights into the life cycle of Porbeagles garnered by Steven Campana, for which he cooperated closely with the Canadian Shark fishermen - but I stand by this comment: like in the case of lethal sampling, actively advocating commercial fishing just for the sake of research, let alone publicly bemoan conservation successes is totally unacceptable!
Remember Mark Harding?

...the fact that a scientist supposedly promoting their conservation is damning that decision is somewhat concerning. Science provides valuable tools with which to carve out a conservation arguement, but, in some cases, science can go too far. Tag the last remaining specimen, harry it, disturb it, infiltrate its life so that it will not breed, so that it does become the last one on earth?
If there were ten dodos left alive, would we be better off studying them, watching them die, or putting a fence 30 miles around them and letting them get on with it, in the hope that they would breed?

And then, there's the game fishermen.
They number tens, if not hundreds of thousands and they are passionate, often financially well endowed and extremely well organized - trust me, not people we want to pick a fight with! I happen to be one of them but I just happen to believe that in terms of sportsmanship, fishing for Sharks sucks.

But others beg to differ as they want to catch large trophy fishes.
In the past, they would land the Shark, get the obligated trophy pictures and either cut out the jaws and throw away the carcass, or donate the contaminated meat to some food bank or the like, or have the Shark mounted. Now, they are being offered the alternative of catch & release and in a few particularly forward looking excellent tournaments, they are being invited to co-operate closely with reputable Shark researchers. That's exactly in line with what has previously happened with Billfishes where practically all game fishing is now catch, tag& release, and I cannot but strongly applaud and fully support these recent developments.

As to whether this harms the Sharks?
No, one does NOT need peer reviewed science to answer this: catch & release is certainly inferior to not fishing - or is anybody seriously disputing this? Many of our Bulls feature fishing hooks and a few now feature permanent disfigurements, like that Tiger in the above picture by Wolfgang, or even our iconic Scarface. Those disfigured Sharks will be at a disadvantage when catching prey - I know because those individuals are regularly incapable of properly grabbing the bait. Not nice by any stretch of the imagination and as a minimum, the fight those Sharks had to endure has unnecessarily expended energy, which is certainly reducing their fitness, at least temporarily - and as a maximum and depending on species, a few to many of the hooked Sharks will eventually die.

But again, this is about finding solutions in the real world, not about pursuing utopian visions.
I will never cease to repeat this: we must be ready to compromise. Catch & release is the pragmatic compromise between no fishing, and fishing to kill. As in every good compromise, both sides will not be perfectly happy - but like in all conservation initiatives, it is the only realistic way forward.

So, again, David thank you for your timely post.

1 comment:

WhySharksMatter said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Mike!