Is Florida Fishing Cruel

James Lee
• Monday, 23 November, 2020
• 12 min read

While the numbers continue to decline compared to decades ago, more than 29 million people still went fishing in 2006, spending billions of dollars on their “hobby.” According to a Florida State University study, sport fishers are responsible for killing almost 25 percent of overfished saltwater species. Fish who are released after being caught can suffer from loss of their protective scale coating that makes them vulnerable to disease, a dangerous build-up of lactic acid in their muscles, oxygen depletion, and damage to their delicate fins and mouths.

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Some guarding males could in fact abandon the nest.” Researchers at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation found that as many as 43 percent of fish released after being caught died within six days. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “ore than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year due to ingestion of, and entanglement in marine debris.” The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that discarded monofilament fishing line is the number one killer of adult brown pelicans, although one Audubon biologist says that “pretty much every type of water or shore bird can get caught up in fishing line ….

Fish flesh (including shellfish) can accumulate extremely high levels of carcinogenic chemical residues, such as poly chlorinated biphenyls (PCs). According to Then England Journal of Medicine, fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” a substance that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the FDA warn women of child-bearing age and children to refrain from eating fish such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel and to consume fewer than 12 ounces a week of other fish flesh because of mercury levels. Groups such as the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, the Wilderness Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and many others either support or do not oppose sport fishing.

Ernesto Garcia, the lone survivor, was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter crew at dusk, about two hours after the ship capsized. This week, as Garcia and the families of the lost fishermen prepared for a remembrance ceremony on Saturday, they received news of another tragedy at sea.

It was a cruel reminder of November’s perils, when demand for seafood runs high but sea conditions can change in a moment. That’s when the real hard nor’Easters first start blowing in,” said Garcia, 51, who now lives in Florida and still struggles with the loss of his friends.

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Garcia said he and his crew hesitated to leave port that morning but felt pressured by the vessel’s owner and were motivated by the high price of scallops during the Thanksgiving season. In an insurance lawsuit, an attorney representing Garcia alleged that the boat was not sturdy enough to withstand the conditions that day.

The owner of the Leonardo, Luis Martins, said the boat was seaworthy and denied pressuring the crew to make the trip. David Anderson, a Boston attorney who specializes in maritime law, is representing Garcia and the families of Brutal and Vega in the insurance lawsuit.

As the crew dredged the bottom for its 600-pound quota of scallops, Garcia was on deck with Cornier for a final tow when he felt the boat shift hard to the left. Waves crashed over the railing, pulling down the boat’s stern and leaving it fully exposed to the storm’s fury, he said.

On boats out of New Bedford alone, 348 people have died at sea in the last century, according to archives at the Millicent Library in neighboring Fair haven. Anderson and other industry officials wonder if owners in New Bedford, which consistently ranks as the leading port in the country in commercial fishing revenue, are sufficiently investing in maintaining their fleet.

After the tragedy, Garcia decided to leave the fishing industry after 37 years of working on the rusted decks of scalloped like the Leonardo. He and Brutal, his best friend of more than two decades, had shared a dream of buying their own lobstering vessel and settling in their native Puerto Rico.

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On a warm, gray Saturday afternoon, relatives of Vega and Brutal gathered at the Seamen’s Ethel, a wooden chapel built in 1832 for a private memorial service. Earlier this week, as a light wind kicked up autumn leaves on the steps of the chapel, Chamberlain said the fishing community is all too familiar with loss.

They also suffer stress, begin to suffocate, are wounded, and may not survive the experience, with fishermen oblivious of the trauma caused. This can wreak havoc, lodging in gills, throats, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, esophagus, eyes, and brain cavities.

A study found that nearly half of the salmon that died were hooked in the gut, and a quarter in the esophagus. A study with salmon found that over half of the fish died when hooks were left in place (Money).

Scientists at an American Fisheries Society Symposium reported their findings on deep-hooking of sailfish, caught off Guatemala and Florida. Nearly half of them had hooks lodged in their mouth, throat, gill arch, esophagus, pharynx, or stomach.

The exposed hook point ripped the abdominal cavity, causing internal bleeding. Smaller tuna did not easily swallow the larger hooks, but could still experience extensive damage to the gut, and eye socket, causing blindness, thereby impacting upon feeding and potentially causing death(Skoal, 1).

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Fish have demonstrated that they remember the circumstances of painful experiences and will afterwards seek to avoid the same situation. In 1957 at Oxford University, researchers found pike and perch initially snapped up, but then rejected, sticklebacks.

Within a few experiences, the pike and perch learned to avoid the sticklebacks and the pain from the spines, altogether. After exhaustion brought on by fighting against being pulled out of the water, only one minute in the air caused in trout severe lactic acid imbalance.

The fisherman, satisfied with himself, may be blissfully unaware that the fish’s life is endangered during the 12 hours that follow (Ferguson). Damage by hooks, fatigue, and sometimes excessive internal pressure when the fish is brought to the surface, all contribute to loss of life.

However, the mere trauma of capture, even for short periods, can herald death (Pelletizer). A wide review of research into fish deaths at the hands of fishermen was made by Money and Childless in 1994.

The percentage of deaths included: 64% Alaska salmon ids (these include salmon and trout), 60% yellow bass caught on unattended bait, 30% tournaments, 77% black crappies in Texas, 56% spotted sea trout, and 45% for red drum (Money). There are then fewer fish which can reproduce, with abnormal changes in the population structure, and loss of genetic diversity.

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Eyes of blue rock fish were forced out of their sockets when caught at 76 meters (Money). Temperature also affects mortality, for example a study showed that striped bass are more likely to die when out of water when caught in the spring and summer (Money).

A significant number of them die, and the longer the struggle, the more likely it is that the fish will lose its life (Julie). Fish may die from damage from hooks or be attacked by predators while they are helplessly held on the line.

The outer protective mucous layer can be rubbed off, allowing in fungal infections which can later lead to death. Hooks often catch on nets, causing more distress, handling, and time out of the water (Mass, 2).

Research found a 14% death rate for landing nets, with fish swimming erratically before dying. Hooking, time out of the water, and handling, all causes great stress for fish.

Additionally, there may be unnatural behavior, a fish may be less likely to reproduce and grow, and they may suffer permanent tissue damage, and are more likely to die. In Finland, it was found that transferring trout between tanks, followed by restraining them for only 5 minutes, caused their heart rate and breathing to increase for up to 3 to 4 days.

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American and Canadian scientists found that, even after being caught briefly, the heart beat of bass doubled. They reported that stress rises in bass when they are exposed to air, and it increases their chances of dying, especially if they have strenuously fought against being caught.

Further research found that, in other species, all of these harmful factors increased the chance of the fish dying (Mass, 3), (Mean). When large mouth bass were removed from the water, the fish’s breathing rate increased, indicating stress.

Also, the level of the enzyme Ala nine Aminotransferase (ATS) increased, indicating permanent tissue damage. When the bass were out of the water for long periods, they showed abnormal behavior, and rather than leaving the release site normally, they tended to linger there.

All of these fish faced possible predators, burning from the sun, or being carried ashore or to hostile environments. Fish hooked from the deep often cannot return after they are released, as their swim bladders will have become too buoyant.

A brochure, Bring That Rock fish Down (PDF), produced by the University of Southern California and the California Department of Fish and Game, says that when a Rock fish is caught at depth, its swim bladder rapidly inflates as it is dragged to the surface, even when reeled in slowly. This procedure can cause serious injury to the already traumatized fish, with possible damage done to another organ, and then the risk of infection (Wasserman), (Kerr).

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Damage to skin, allowing fungus and disease to take hold Damage to eye, mouth, and internal organs Difficulty in maintaining equilibrium Hooks and line left in the body Vulnerability to predators Stress weakening the immune system which reduces growth, capability for breeding, and allows vulnerability to disease Researchers deployed fishermen to catch over a thousand trout on 45 fishing trips, from the Boys Brulé River in Wisconsin, United States.

It was also discovered that the cornea lost its transparency with repeated contact with nets, cooler walls, and other fish. In the Bahamas, bone fish were tracked using ultrasonic transmitters and small visual floats.

An independent panel of experts, who reported in the Midway Report in 1980 for The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, said that the delicate outer skin and mucus layer of fish can be damaged by fishermen when they handle the fish. Induced stress can lead to a weakened immune system, which makes the fish less resistant to disease (Money).

There can be mechanical trauma and persistent irritation by corroding hooks and bacterial infection causing severe, chronic peritonitis. Researchers found extreme metabolic disruption, to causing the fish to be unable to function properly, or survive at all.

After ten minutes of being hooked, tunas had significantly high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in their blood. A single blue fin tuna, angled for 42 minutes, died immediately after release.

The strain of being caught by fishermen reduces the fish’s ability to reproduce and can affect its growth. For example, the growth of small mouth bass was inversely related to the number of times hooked (Money).

Ex-fisherman, Steve Hindi : I Was a Fish Killer “Often we bought large sucker minnows as bait. The suckers were hooked just under and to the rear of the dorsal fin, in a way that would allow as much movement as possible, and would maximize their survival time.

The suckers were thrown out and suspended under a bomber, or were held close to the bottom by a lead sinker. Although we were told, and wanted to believe, that fish did not feel fear or pain, we almost always knew when a predator approached the sucker.

The bomber jerked, pulsed, and slowly dragged across the water as the bigger fish approached. For pike spinning, mount the sprat on a tackle fitted with a body pin which is inserted right into the mouth of the fish.

They adjust their escape behavior and keep a safe distance outside the shooting range (Sbragaglia). “Many divers take advantage of their time of freedom in the sea to hunt down and kill almost any ocean creature they find there.

It may take as little as one year for one single spear fisherman operating every day to practically annihilate the bustling fish life of a one-mile stretch of coral reef.” They regularly discard hooks and monofilament line, which kills and maims dogs, birds, turtles, dolphins, and other marine animals.

Significant harm is done by the killing of slow maturing sharks, as well as putting under pressure fish with low populations and ranges. Additionally, very large numbers of invertebrates are captured for use as bait (McGhee), (Environment Agency).

This generates a lot of profit, but because the industry is such a powerful lobby, damage to ecology is kept hidden, and fishing remains largely unregulated. While commercial fishing kills fish at lower levels of the sea, recreational fishermen kill at a higher sea level. Failure to recognize the potential contribution of recreational fishing to fishery declines, environmental degradation, and ecosystem alterations places ecologically and economically important resources at risk (Cooke and Cow).

Using data from four high-profile sources, Canadian researchers found dramatic reductions in fish populations over the last several decades, yet these declines have gone largely unnoticed by the public, even though fish suffer in proportion to how close they are to population centers. The large hatchery infrastructure only helps to hide the collapse of native fish, and reduce the natural gene pool (Post).

Some countries have a closed season (a period where fishermen are banned), so wildlife, such as breeding fish, amphibians, birds, and vegetation can recover. Wading fishermen can damage fish eggs buried in the gravel, invertebrates and water plants (Environment Agency).

Technology makes life easier for the fisherman, but harder for the fish, with high quality echo sounders, global positioning systems (GPS), new types of low diameter high strength fishing lines, and chemically sharpened hooks. Additionally, there is greater information available through the media and the internet regarding “hot spots”, the right seasons and the most efficient techniques for particular species, all aided by off-road vehicles.

Fishermen, usually ignorant of the web of life, assume that adding more fish to a river, dam, or lake, is somehow helping nature. The release of non-native live bait adds to the problem, as local insects and tadpoles can be eaten in large numbers.

Such small life became rare or absent in lakes containing introduced trout (Chambray). Alien species are added to make it easier for fishermen, but this causes losses to native fish, and other wildlife, through competition, predation and the introduction of disease and parasites.

Wet nets and fishermen’s boots can carry parasites and diseases, such as crayfish plague and spring viremia of carp, the seeds of undesirable exotic plants, such as giant hog weed and Himalayan balsam, and root-fragments of the invasive Japanese knot weed (Environment Agency). Salmon ids (salmon, trout, char, etc), introduced into Australia and New Zealand in the 1800s, caused the decline of a range of native species, including the River Blackish, galaxies (a family of mostly small freshwater fish), the Tasmanian Mountain Shrimp, Crested Grebe, Blue Duck, New Zealand Graying, Spotted Tree Frog, and possibly other frog species.

Ruffle and roach were introduced as live-bait for pike fishing, threatened enhance, whitefish, and Arctic Chart in the Lake District in Britain. They stated that heavy fishing pressure had contributed to the decline in wild trout and salmon.

Artificial stocking, such as bream and carp, meet the demand, but high densities reduced the diversity of native fish and plants (Environment Agency). However, carp push out other fish, such as perch, Rudd and tench, and there is a subsequent decline in water clarity and plant growth.

This has caused extreme harm to local fish and other wildlife, unable to suddenly cope with another species (ISSN). They have affected populations of small native fish through predation, sometimes resulting in their decline or extinction.

Native to western North America, from Alaska to the Baa Peninsula, they are regularly stocked in many locations where wild populations cannot resist the cope with their presence. Fish lose the ability to maintain a proper orientation, causing them to swim in a spiral motion.

The brown trout is also blamed for reducing native fish populations, especially other salmon ids, through predation, displacement and food competition.

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