Monday, 3 August 2009

Fishy tales

When I first began taking an interest in the sea, it was as an angler wholly ignorant of issues of species populations, biomass and food chains. There was something wonderfully raw and wild about the sea, and something mysterious about its depths. I'd read reports and seen pictures of 200lb marlin and tuna being hauled up onto the quayside and readily bought into the vision of men as proud hunters battling the elements and their prey and emerging victorious. The problem was, however, that when I went fishing there was no prey taking my hook. I persevered and mastered the craft, researched the baits and feeding habits of my chosen target. I listened to the boat captains and the old sea dogs telling me where great fish were to be found. It took some time to realise that generally these guys were telling me about the days of their youth, when they could pluck the cod out of the sea with every cast and every trip would be plentiful. Even younger skippers wouldn't seemingly not get dishearted with the declining numbers, they'd justput it down to the weather, try another day, search another patch, change the baits. They never appeared to want to admit the real problem, that harvesting requires seeding, farmers leave their fields fallow in order for them to recover nutrients. Not so the fishing industry. It is, of course, essential to their job security to talk up the prospects of big catches to their clients. When I began fishing, my biggest enjoyment was to see the fish close up and then watch them swim away. Since this was my goal, I later found a much better way to achieve this with Scuba diving, and stopped fishing. Many skippers see the benefits of catering to divers and have turned away from fishing. I'm amazed that local authorities cannot see the economic benefits of the dive industry replacing an unsustainable fishing industry along our coasts. Why can't we sink more artificial reefs, invest in an industry which has a future. I spend a great deal more money diving that I ever did fishing, it's a boom industry and a sustainable one!

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