Ed Letter – Fighting for Fish

What's that sound you hear? Yes, that one.

September 21, 2007

|| |—| || |BILL COLLECTION: A few of the dead billfish lined up in Manta, Ecuador, in December. Photo: Captain Allan Starr| It’s the sound of our fish being sucked from the ocean. How is it happening? Every way man can get a death grip on fish.

Recently, I’ve been bombarded with bad news regarding our fish. Captain Allan Starr posted the following on, with photos to back it up: “I have just returned from the most disturbing sight of total billfish devastation I have ever witnessed. On the conservative side, I would say, this morning (December 11, 2005) I saw over 1,000 dead billfish, marlin, sailfish and one pup swordfish piled up on a beach in Manta, Ecuador. This goes on day after day¿pretty disturbing for me, when crews of mine go through great pains to release all the billfish we catch.” Agreed, captain.

And this from a member of, who spent some time 30 miles offshore of Cape Cod this fall and later made the following post with photos: “Unfortunately one of the things I saw was well over 1,000 dead striped bass floating belly up for miles and miles and miles. It was bycatch that was being dumped by the draggers…All of these floaters had their stomachs popping out of their mouths from being hauled up from deep water. They were all 29 to 38 inches long.”


Recreational fishermen aren’t immune. Walk the docks in any marina in the Northeast, and you’ll see stripers stacked like cordwood. Day after day, boats bring back their full limits of breeding-size fish. And while this is all done in accordance with regulations, one wonders how many of those big fish get a bad case of freezer burn and end up in the trash heap.

By now you’ve probably heard that Massachusetts will ban the possession of herring. Says Phil Brady of the commonwealth’s Division of Marine Fisheries, “We’ve seen a continuous decline [of herring] over the past few years. In some instances it has been a catastrophic decline, and we’re trying to reduce fish mortality.” Not surprisingly, anglers in the state supported the ban even though live-lining herring is an art form in Massachusetts.

But what can the rank-and-file guy do to protect our fisheries? To get the answer I phoned SWS Conservation Editor George Reiger, who has waged wars for the sake of fish since the early ’60s. “One of the best things you can do,” says Reiger, “is join a conservation group with a marine focus, and then contribute at whatever level you can, whether it’s paying dues or showing up at hearings.” The key, says Reiger, is to stay focused. “Conservation can be a grind, but you must, as the saying goes, maintain eternal vigilance. The effort gives meaning to our sport.” Words to live by.


David Dibenedetto
[email protected]


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