There was a time when most sport fishers, and perhaps even more so the TV shows and tournaments catering to them, were all about catching as big and as many fish as possible. For sure, there are many out there that still are. But fortunately, we’re gradually seeing a shift away from this “plenty more fish in the sea” approach – largely because it has become quite obvious that there aren’t plenty more fish in the sea. Plenty more plastic, maybe, but not plenty more fish.
These days, I feel like most of the recreational fishers I meet and I have more in common than we have things to argue about. Fishers are often on or in the water on a daily basis, and when you spend that sort of time with the sea, you witness first-hand the changes that are happening.
Your average fishing show – and its host – has changed a fair bit in recent years too. When I was an oceans campaigner with Greenpeace, we collaborated with Matt Watson, fishing show presenter and “part stuntman - part conservationist and self-confessed ‘mad fisherman.” You might know him as “gannet man” the guy that jumped out of a helicopter and hugged a marlin.
These days, New Zealand even has a First Man of Fishing. A.k.a. the Prime Minister’s boyfriend, Clarke Gayford. When he’s not taking care of their baby daughter Neve Te Aroha, Clarke presents “Fish of the Day”. In a recent fishing trip in the Cook Islands, he came across a drifting ocean-killer: A fish aggregation device. Clarke had this to say about his catch:
"These [Fish Aggregation Devices] are ocean killers that draw in all life for miles around, which commercial fishing seiners then set nets around, taking everything gathered. Turtles, dolphins, manta rays, juvenile tuna, nothing escapes. Local fisherman here call them 'floaters' and tell me they can see as many as forty in a season. Remember these are just the ones that get 'lost', meaning what they are seeing is a tiny window into a very large and dangerous problem.
Clarke follows up with an important call to action for consumers:
Always ask where your fish comes from and never support ANY company that persists in using these destructive fishing techniques said to now be responsible for catching half the world’s tuna each year.”
Here’s hoping that as fishers and conservationists start saying the same things about ending destructive fishing and restoring abundance to our oceans, governments and the fishing industry starts to listen.