Snowy Owls and Goliath Groupers: Why I co-authored “Trophy fishing for species threatened with extinction.”

In both my professional and private life, I am a man who wears many hats. I am a deep-sea ecologist, a science writer, a goatherd, a geneticist, a conservation advocate, a grill master, and many others. When David asked me to join him in co-authoring “Trophy fishing for species threatened with extinction: A way forward building on a history of conservation” I did so not in my capacity as a marine science Ph.D., but as a recreational fisherman who cares deeply about the survival of his sport. Without fish, there is no fishing.

I was, at first, skeptical, but over the course of a summer, I came to appreciate what David was trying to accomplish.

I wrote most of my thesis on this boat, with a rod in the water.

I wrote most of my thesis on this boat, with a rod in the water.

Before I talk about fish, I need to talk about birds. 

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Background information on our “trophy fishing for species threatened with extinction” paper

A giant pangasius, one of the Endangered species of fish that is targeted by trophy fishermen. Photo by user GV_Fishing, WikiMedia Commons

A giant pangasius, one of the Endangered species of fish that is targeted by trophy fishermen. Photo by user GV_Fishing, WikiMedia Commons

Andrew and I (along with several co-authors) have a new paper out in the journal Marine Policy entitled “Trophy Fishing for Species Threatened with Extinction: A way Forward Based on a History of Conservation.” You can read the paper here, and view the official press release here (will be up soon) .

We believe that this is an important topic that does not get enough attention, and we wrote the paper to review the scope of the problem, propose an easily achievable solution, and facilitate a long overdue discussion. Although we intentionally wrote the paper to be accessible to anyone, this blog post serves to explain the concepts and issues in the paper even further.  We are happy to answer any questions people have about the paper, just ask them in the comments section below.

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Angler gives up world record to release massive shark alive

Scranton  attorney Michael Roth has been fishing since 1959, and has traveled around the world to pursue his hobby. “Fishing simply takes me to amazing places,” he told me, “from Alaska to Panama to the Eastern Caribbean.”  In January, Roth went on a fishing trip to the Turks and Caicos. While targeting sharks off Provo, he saw a huge blacktip shark cruise by and threw a red and orange fly in its path.

Photo courtesy Michael Roth

Photo courtesy Michael Roth

According to the International Game Fishing Association, the largest blacktip shark ever caught using the gear Roth was using (a fly rod with M-10 KG line) was 77 pounds. This blacktip was over 120 pounds, and would have easily set a new world record for this line class. However, International Game Fishing Association regulations require that animals submitted for a record must be weighed at an official weigh station. In this case (and in many other cases), this would have required killing the animal, as it would not have survived transport to the weigh station. Instead, Roth took a quick photo and released the shark.

“While I would love to be a world record holder, the thought of killing this beautiful animal was completely abhorrent to me,” Roth told me. “I felt so fortunate to have hooked and landed this spectacular fish. Killing it was always out of the question. Releasing this fish, and for me all fish,  to keep the species healthy is a top priority for me. I always encourage all anglers to catch and release.”