I’ve been laying low for most of the winter so far, venturing out to go to work and then hustling back home to fatten up on beer, but I’ve been keeping a close eye on things going around in the fish/fishing world. I saw this article yesterday about this guy in New Zealand who is a total badass and stabbed a shark that was biting him, then stitched himself up on the beach, then went to the pub to get a beer before heading to the hospital. “[James] Grant gave himself stitches using a first aid kit he kept in his vehicle for pig hunts. He and his friends then went to the Colac Bay Tavern, where he was given a bandage because he was dripping blood on the floor.
The stitching was finished off when he went to Invercargill hospital, where he was back at work on Monday.
‘It would have been great if I had killed it because there was a fishing competition on at the Colac Bay Tavern,’ Grant told Stuff.co.nz.”
This guy is in the early running for most interesting man of the year. I’ve also been waiting anxiously for Peter Laurelli’s 2013 fishing video, which should be out soon. For now, I’ve been watching the trailer for his newest video, which has much more to offer than surf casting in the Northeast, with what looks like some nice giant trevally footage coming. Check out the trailer:
Always inspiring and awesome stuff from Peter that helps me whittle away the winter days planning for the upcoming season. It may still be a couple weeks before he releases his final version, so I may have to wait a little longer. In the meantime, I’ve been watching a steady diet of John Skinner’s YouTube videos, the latest of which is just a simple video of him with a 33# bass on a pencil popper. Yeah, you know. For John, it’s not that big of a deal.
There’s always something to learn from his videos. I really need to pick up a couple of his books while the weather outside sucks.
There’s also this video that came out a week or so ago of this African tigerfish caught snatching a swallow out of midair. Even though the video isn’t of great quality, you can see the fish chasing the birds while they’re flying just above the water. I first learned of these fish from River Monsters when Jeremy Wade was hitting up the witch doctor to help him in his quest to catch one of these crazy, mean looking fish. Then, after he finally lands one, after convincing a whole village to give him good luck, he tries to convince his guide to let the fish go, even though it would feed like everyone he’s met since the episode started. Since he (Wade) apparently didn’t want his head on a stake after getting everyone to help him catch some mystic fish and then letting it go while the village goes hungry, he conveniently keeps it out of the water long enough so it can’t be revived, and hence is relieved of any responsibility for C&R and his life is spared.
It hasn’t been all entertainment and wonder this winter though. Thomas posted an article on our Facebook page featuring John Price, whom you may remember from that incredible investigative piece Alison Fairbrother wrote in 2012 for the Washington Post concerning the depleted population of menhaden in the Atlantic. Well, Price is back and what he’s seeing is vastly undernourished stripers in the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s no wonder since Omega Protein is still out there scooping up bunker by the thousands of tons and grinding them into pet food. From the article:
In the stomachs of the fish coming to the dock at Tilghman, Price sees little of the menhaden, bay anchovies, and blue crabs associated with rockfish diets. Instead the fish are full of cut-up chunks of spot, used by charter boats to lay a trail of “chum” or “chunks” to attract fish to their clients’ lures trailing behind the boat.
“Essentially, they are doing the same thing I’m doing in my aquarium, running a feeding operation, but on a larger scale,” Price said. Uphoff said there’s no evidence that this is hurting the overall rockfish population, but it shows “great fishing” can be partly the result of artificially concentrating fish.
Similarly, Price said, rockfish can look fat and healthy on casual inspection, but they frequently turn out on analysis to have absorbed water as fat reserves shrank.
His work has convinced Price that rockfish nowadays are getting inadequate nutrition. Body fat’s down, disease is up and bigger fish appear in decline. Only in 2010, when they were able to exploit an unusually large number of small spot—not a big part of their normal diets—did the bulk of the fish he sampled seem well-nourished.
“Of all the threats to stripers I used to worry about, not having enough food was one I never imagined,” he said.
So couple this with the commercial trawlers in North Carolina and it’s not surprising that the stock of striped bass in the ocean is in serious decline, despite what people may be trying to tell us. It’s sad to see such little regard.
And it’s happening in the Pacific as well. An article came out this week in the NY Times about a shark processing plant in town of Puqi, in the Zhejiang Province. This plant is slaughtering hundreds of rare sharks—including the nearly extinct whale shark, basking sharks, white sharks, and other protected species—for their oil, organs, and fins. From the beginning of the article it already seems hopeless: activists had to be tipped off by a Chinese environmental protection group in order for the story to get out, not the other way around. Here’s an excerpt:
What they saw shook them – whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world, a tropical species the size of a bus (they can grow to 12 meters, or about 40 feet, long) butchered by hand on a slippery floor. The sharks are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, meaning they are within the “extinction risk” category.
“It’s a lot of carnage in one place, a lot of damage. It was pretty overwhelming,” said Mr. Hilton, describing the scene at the factory that he and Mr. Hofford visited three times, posing as buyers, in an undercover investigation that began in 2010 and concluded last December. “We walked into the courtyard, and there were shark fins everywhere. I didn’t think it would be so blatant.”
Said Mr. Hofford: “It was shocking. You go in there and they were laid out on the floor, all chopped up. You nearly want to vomit. When you have swum with them, it’s very upsetting.”
In a report released this week, the two men allege that about 600 whale sharks are being slaughtered annually for their stomach, lips, cartilage, oil and fins at the China Wenzhou Yueqing Marine Organisms Health Protection Foods Company, in Puqi township near Wenzhou.
Basking and great white sharks were also being “industrially processed,” said the two members of the nongovernmental organization WildLifeRisk in the report, titled “Planet’s biggest slaughter of whale sharks exposed in Pu Qi, Zhejiang Province, China.”
According to the activists Paul Hilton and Alex Hofford, the sharks were mostly sold in pieces in China, with some meat labeled as freshwater tilapia, fins, of course, labeled for soups and medicines, and the majority of the oil shipped off of to North America for vitamins—something else Omega Protein is doing with their menhaden hauls—and cosmetics. May Mei, a program manager of the NGO WildAid—whose most famous Chinese celebrity face is former NBA player Yao Ming and which campaigns to end the tradition of shark fin soup—all but said there was nothing they could do about it, except express shock and dismay.
“Our control system just isn’t good enough. And we have to teach fishermen what’s a protected species and what’s not. Supervision at all levels has to improve, including at customs departments.”
Considering the regulatory departments for industry in China, she’s more than likely right. Even more disconcerting is her assertion that China is not even the largest world processor of sharks; that distinction, she says, belongs to Indonesia. Much in the same way most of the world denounces Japan’s whale hunting fleets, but whose laws have little power or backbone to stop it, countries like China and Indonesia will continue to feed the shark processing industry as long as they’re able to—meaning until nothing is left.