Red Snapper $160

Red Snapper $160


If you haven’t read this or seen it on the news, the Bahamas have announced they have reached an agreement with China to allow that country fishing rights over a great deal of ocean off of the Andros Islands.
This is going to be a big problem for all of us within a thousand miles of the area.
China is the largest consumer of fish in the world, as 3 billion Chinese rely on fish for their primary source of protein. However, China has shown no signs of understanding sustainability.
But let’s stop for a moment and get some background.
Scientists rely on several methods to determine how many fish are left in the sea, and collectively, the report is not good. But how does one go about counting fish? A roll call: “Fin”, here. “Gill”, here. ” Fred”,… absent–he got fried last night….
A primary source of information is countries reporting total catches. It is widely known, however, that China provides numbers only to currently support the enforcement of its own goals.
Globally, these partnership agreements have not panned out as represented, that is, they are not fair to the host country (the Bahamas), But the agreement has catch limits that the Bahamas
has very little infrastructure to monitor, giving China almost carte Blanche to harvest as much as it wants. This, then, is a major blow to the artisanal fishing industry of the island. Countries like the Bahamas do not have strong negotiating powers and contracts are not traded in a transparent method.
China and other countries employ huge trawls to 2000 meters deep, destroying huge swaths of the bottom, as well as corals, and capturing everything indiscriminately in their path. It is estimated that every night there are enough of these nets being dragged to encircle the globe.
And, as an added treat that will effect local sports anglers, the Chinese have announced they wish to target tuna, wahoo, dolphin, king mackerel, and swordfish, among other sport fish, further decimating dwindling stocks.

There are some African countries that have reported that such agreements have left their waters fished out, which should not be a surprise, as such countries have little to no means to police such agreements.  

This is a poor movement to allow such an abusive country access to waters in our hemisphere. We shall require more people and resources to police our waters and should provide assistance to our neighbor, the Bahamas.
Write or email your congress representatives, both state and national.



When you look at the stats regarding “amateur fishermen” you may consider the group should be hard to ignore; however, it may seem that government doesn’t do good job considering the erroneous and ignorant regulations it has placed, carte blanche on the entire fishing industry. Reviewing the census facts regarding the American Angler, it is plausibly hard to understand why (1) the government has made such ill advised regulations and (2) the commercial fishing industry has gotten away with (literally) the murder of much of the planet’s sea life.

Take a look at the following index of facts I have researched….

–Recreational in this country amateur fishing supports over 828000 jobs
–These jobs generated $35 billion in salaries and wages two years ago
–Companies supporting anglers create a $115 billion impact on the economy
–Federal, State, and Local tax contributions last year totaled $14,995,905,485.00
–In Florida (the #1 state in recreational fishing) 3 million anglers spend $5 billion each year
–Florida angler spending has a ripple effect of $7 billion each year
–Fishing is more popular than golf
–If amateur fishing were a company, it would rank #51 on the Fortune 500 list
–On average, each year more people fish than attend ALL NFL games, by more than 2 – 1

All of this, however, does not absolve the recreational salt water fisherman of not following the rules, licensing, catch limits, and the like. Make no mistake, regardless of a great deal of conflicting and questionable information, the oceans are in crisis, from over fishing, pollution beyond believable scales, and, regardless of whatever you may call it–climate change. But, by the same token, it is not the recreational fisherman that is creating such draconian conditions…consider just one simple fact: there are two to three times more commercial fishing ventures extent today that the oceans can support and sustain.

Fish are very resilient creatures and, it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt and question, will bounce back quickly if given the chance and relief from stress.

Think about it…don’t you want there to be fish out there for your grandkids to catch?




It has been said many times that the internet is an ocean of information.  I should like to add it is an ocean only 2 inches deep.

In the course of my research about sustainability and our oceans in crisis I have come across considerable information that should make us more than just a little concerned that there are not that many fish left in the sea.  With all the reports, studies, etc., yadda-yadda, blah, blah blah on the subject two things are quite clear:  (1) there is definitely a serious lack of stewardship with regards to our oceans and the life that abounds therein and, (2) scientists, can’t seem to agree, and as a result, their findings are to be questioned and perhaps not taken at face value (I want to say “not to be trusted” but that would piss them off–maybe that needs to happen).

Scientists are a very competitive tribe and they rarely trust each other nor are they as altruistic as one would hope.  THEIR  study, work, and results are ALWAYS  better, more accurate, and, subsequently more worthy of money from trusts, grants, and the government than that of the other guy.  According to my son-in-law, the Phd., they frequently take credit for another’s work.

What did Indiana Jones say in “The Last Crusade”?  “Nazis, gees, I hate these guys.”  Lately that is how I have come to feel about “Scientists, gees, I hate these guys.”

Why–first hand knowledge; local knowledge.

I live in Jacksonville, Florida, rather close to the Atlantic Coast and St. John’s River.  I know many recreational fishermen, professional, artesian fisherman who trawl for shrimp, fish for snapper, grouper, and other food value fishes, and charter captains for both offshore as well as “head boat” bottom fishing.  In fact, I have several oat sodas (beer for the uninitiated)  which with any number of them.

These are fine, hardworking, four square American peoples of varied backgrounds and cultures.  All are just trying to make a decent living and carve the smallest measure of the American dream out for their families.

And what have I learned:  Well, those that say the red snapper population is declining to close to extinction levels apparently have not been counting fish around here–I am getting on the spot reports that the red snapper population is bigger than ever–and, oh, by the way, if the fed is going to offer amnesty fishing days–that is days when it is legal to fish and keep red snappers in the middle of no fishing seasons–why do they have to select dates during the breeding season?  Says a lot about what they DON’T KNOW…

I have reported from my research that over 100 million sharks are killed each year and as an apex predator, the shark is going the way of the doodoo.  Apparently the authors of these reports have not been out shrimping with any of the trawlers from Mayport, diving the reefs off of Jacksonville, Fernandina, St. Augustine, and a host of other popular sites along Florida’s east coat, or surfing the break.  A shrimper will tell you that during a trawl you can count HUNDREDS of sharks following the nets; I had a surfer just yesterday tell me that there are plenty of spinners, brown tips and other jaws working the break.  A good friend who runs a dive charter boat told me he has seen more sharks, noted more tigers, threshers, and great whites  this past season than he has since he started diving some 40 years ago. (He runs charters a minimum of 5 days a week, as do the other charter captains that have volunteered information.)

So what does this tell me?  Something I have said for years:  Trust no one and nothing you cannot see, touch, and now, count, yourself.  Do however, be serious about your individual care and stewardship of the planet; think sustainable, think about what you are leaving for your kids and grandkids.


There have been hundreds of studies about the oceans in crisis and the dangers of over fishing.  Very few match up closely; most vary from one point to another, but all point to a conclusion that sustainability of life in our oceans is in grave danger.  That the lay person and average angler may be confused and see the threatening message as diluted, all agree the consequences of abuse on many levels are dire…

Let’s take a look at some of the conclusions I have found during my research:

Marine scientists have determined that over fishing could kill the oceans by 2050.

In 2006, a scientific paper reported that fish stocks would be depleted by 2048

In 2009, the same scientists recant their report that stocks would be depleted by 2048

There are 200,000 recognized species of fishes, however reliable data exists for less than 500 of the 1500 to 1700 species commercially fished.

All of the data apples to commercially exploited species only; recreational and artesianal  fishing data remains unexplored or reported only as conjecture.

80% of the global catch (obviously estimated) is either omitted from studies or comes from poor and questionable sources.

Almost all data comes from developed countries, only.

China, the largest harvester, provides data to support only its own goals which is, consequently suspect.

And, underneath it all, it is well known that we still no little about life in the seas–we do not know how many species really exist.

Confused yet?  Read on….

64% of unassessed stocks are below sustainability numbers; 63% of assessed stocks are below sustainability numbers.  How do you decimalize something UNASSESSED?

One global organization has determined that via reports, 29.9% of fish stocks are depleted, while another scientific group has determined that number is closer to 56%, a number determined from a computer model, not reports.

How does one go about counting fish?  Well, fisheries may report numbers to government authorities, but all nations are not the same record-keepers.  The scientific community relies of similar reports or “ride along” counts and evaluations but one must remember that the scientific world is very competitive, so one scientist will frequently reject (or covet) the findings of another…

How does one go about counting fish?  By role call:

FIN! — here

GILL! — present

FRED!….FRED!…FRED?…he got caught last night.

And we spend billions to take a look at Mars.


Doc’s Island is pleased to report that press announced this weekend 180 nations have agreed to creating a certification/licensing process for shark fishermen, which is to say they must pay for certification that they are, in fact, shark fishermen and they must pay for a specific license allowing them to harvest certain species of sharks.

However, it is a very short list considering the vast number of shark species in our oceans and there was very little, if anything reported on enforcement, fines, penalties, and control…but at least it is something….

“Apex” predators such as sharks balance the ecosystems and keep “mesoconsumers” from overtaking species that create and maintain food sources from the bottom of the food chain on up, including control of much marine fauna as algae and diatoms, all necessary to sustain a healthy ecosystem that includes man.

Case in point:  Sharks were over fished off the Mid Atlantic Coast to the point where their preferred prey, the cow nosed ray, increased in numbers drastically.  This huge increase led to the decline of the rays’ preferred food, ocean scallops, which in turn led to a collapse of the commercial scallop fishery in that region–i.e.: people were put out of work and the price of scallops sky rocketed.

Remember, it is all a delicate balance–moderation works, over indulgence does not.










More people are killed each year by doing something stupid (“Hey everybody, watch this!”) than by sharks…










In the past ten days prior to this posting, the news has been full of stories regarding the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the carrier pigeon…not as a celebration but as a warning.

There was a time when the carrier pigeon numbered in unestimate-able billions.  Flocks could literally block sunlight.

The birds were killed for food, fun, and feed…

…until there was but one left, kept at a zoo as an oddity, until it finally expired from old age.

The carrier pigeon is no more, although there is talk of cloning the DNA to bring the species back…(1) Can that really be done? (2) What are the consequences of such an achievement?  Does that then give us carte blanche to merrily exterminate whatever species we feel like, knowing that, what the hell, just keep some dna and we can replenish the species at our leisure?  How deep and dangerous are the moral consequences of such an experiment?

Wouldn’t it be simpler to just sustain the sustainability of life on the planet?




Just some food for thought. There aren’t that many fish in the sea anymore, although if left alone and given a chance, fish are most resilient animals. While some progress has been noticed, since so much remains unknown, undocumented, inaccurate, or just plan a mystery, it is difficult to assess the metrics of the “noted improvements”.

Global commercial fleet 2-3x larger than supportable

1 out of 10—long line hook catch 10 years ago

1 out of 100—long line catch today

3 b—people who make a living from fishing

3b–people who’s primary source of protein is fish

100-120m—metric tons/yr. current harvest

#4—rank of US annual global harvest

#1—rank of China global harvest

15,772,054mt China annual harvest, pop.1.35B(mt=metric ton

 5,153,452mt US annual harvest, pop.314M

US=33% catch, 23% population

China catch #’s unreliable <


Recently there has been an increase in articles and papers regarding the causes and consequences of global warming.  Many indicate that small tolerance changes (such as 2 degrees Fahrenheit) will create disastrous results on a huge scale, as in covering over low lying islands and moving coastal high tide marks inland by miles.

But here’s the thing:  global warming will lead to ice age precedents.  As the global temperatures increase, the polar ice melt will stall the ocean conveyor by dropping the warm current temperatures; colder water then sinks lower into the oceans and without warmer water reacting with the air, colder temperatures will prevail, as will a significant difference in weather conditions and violent storms.

The oceans, it has been said, absorb about one half of CO2 emissions across the world’s surface.  This, in turn, lowers the pH in the waters, making them more acidic.  This increase in acidity leads to the slow but sure destruction of considerable salt water habitat in the form of dissolving corals and smothered kelp bends and sea grass meadows.  We will discuss this at length later.

But for now, I wish to share something with you about this crisis.  Several years ago, I was hired to teach science to middle and high school students at a parochial school.  Now there were two rather considerable challenges to this mission:  one is that parochial schools rarely have much money to spend on resources and in this case I had but two different textbooks for 6 different classes and no other resources or supplies (not even a microscope or test tube) and, two, my background is in the humanities–arts, theatre, literature.  What to do?

I created my own curriculum designed to help my students learn to think by generating materials about global warming and challenging the students to determine who to believe and what was the real cause of the issue.

We arrived at three conclusions:  (1) Man, with his lack of concern for the planet and all its inhabitants is the villain; (2) At the end of the day most scientists agree that extent evidence is not conclusive enough to point fingers and they don’t really know what the root cause is; and (3) the earth is “just” going through a stage.

Not really trusting Al Gore or most scientists in general, I latched onto the third conclusion–the earth is going through another “stage”.  I have long supported a theory that the earth is, in fact, a living entity and with that as a basis, it is going through changes to “cleanse” itself of detritus that has built up (man made and natural) over the centuries since the last serious ice age a millennium ago.

Consider: what followed the demise of the dinosaurs was an ice age created by the detritus of a mammoth meteor strike determined to be in the area of the Yucatan.  That ice age slowly warmed up as the cold and storms cleared the air.  In the Middle Ages a  smaller ice age affected most of the European (ie: civilized) world and that was determined to have started from a monumental volcanic eruption.  And again, in the mid 1800’s there was that recorded cold summer that included snow in June in the temperate climates and the coldest year in recorded time to that point.

Could it be that the Earth (note now with a capital “E”) is taking care of itself, as it has done in 4.5+billion years of change and development and literally “clearing the air” of all pollution and damaging particulates?

Does this theory then absolve man of all culpability in his ignorant abuse of the planet and allow him to continue creating his own self destructive consequences?


If we have learned anything is that life exists in a precarious balance with all, animate, inanimate, animal, vegetable, mineral, and liquid entities surrounding it.  Remove one piece of the puzzle and eventually all pieces begin to crumble.

This may not be very scientific in the eyes of some, but it does make for a legitimate consideration.  Hell, theoretical and quantum physicists are pondering such and greater things.  As a very young species (what, 200,000 years out of 4.5 billion?) we need to acknowledge that we really don’t know that much at all.

As Clint Eastwood once spoke:  “A man needs to know his limitations.”

Film at 11.


To understand “climate change” one needs to get a handle on what is know as the “Ocean Conveyor”:  this is the combinations of all the currents that are “moving rivers” in our oceans.  Gulf Steam and Humbolt currents are perhaps the most commonly known; there are many more, however, and besides influencing global weather, their intersections and connections have a great deal to do with ocean ecosystems.

Here’s a quick explanation by NOAA:

“The ocean is not a still body of water. There is constant motion in the ocean in the form of a global ocean conveyor belt. This motion is due to thermohaline currents (thermo = temperature; haline = salinity). Cold, salty water is dense and sinks to the bottom of the ocean while warm water is less dense and rises to the surface. The ocean conveyor gets it “start” in the Norwegian Sea, where warm water from the Gulf Stream heats the atmosphere in the cold northern latitudes. This loss of heat to the atmosphere makes the water cooler and denser, causing it to sink to the bottom of the ocean. As more warm water is transported north, the cooler water sinks and moves south to make room for the incoming warm water. This cold bottom water flows south of the equator all the way down to Antarctica. Eventually, the cold bottom waters are able to warm and rise to the surface, continuing the conveyor belt that encircles the globe. It takes almost 1,000 years for the conveyor belt to complete one “cycle.””

The Ocean Conveyor

Illustration of the global ocean conveyor.

We are familiar with the Gulf Stream and understand that it’s warm waters give the British Isles and most of Europe a temperate climate despite being farther from the Equator that the US.


In the diagram above, the red indicates “surface” current and the blue indicates “deeper” current.  Warm water is near the surface, while colder water is deeper.  Eventually, deeper currents will rise towards the surface, such as off of the coast of Chile and near Monterey Bay in California–it is these upwellings that provide vast numbers of smaller sea creatures and baitfish that have been pushed along by the currents–it is at these spots apex fishes as well as “food” quality fishes are found in great abundance.


However, colder water pushes warmer water downward as in the northern curve of the Gulf Stream and takes the surface warmth with it.  In effect, a global heat wave will stall the surface currents by cold water melt from the poles sinking them and temperate weather with them.  What seems like a conundrum is that a global heat wave will lead to another ice age as well as stronger, violent, and more frequent storms.


Oceans absorb about one half of all CO2 emissions, which lowers pH levels, making the waters more acidic.  Acidification dissolves corals and other shellfish as well as chokes kelp forest growth with increased growth of turf forming algae:  all of which means loss of food sources and habitat, a breakdown in the fundamental ecosystem.  Acidificiation also reduces sound absorption in sea water effecting communication, feeding and reproduction.


Marine creatures need specific temperatures to reproduce and grow.  Temperature stratification traps nutrients in the deep oceans, sunless depths, preventing phyloplankton from transferring nutrients to energy up the food chain.


If unchecked, CO2 will double  in 50 years, creating extinction events not seen since 65 million years ago.  Among other disasters, this could mean the end of coral reefs as we know them today.


Changes in ocean temperatures also force changes in  normal migrations, sending animals to search for food in waters that do not exist or are suitable or sufficient for prey.


The earth, if you accept it as a “living” entity, has done a pretty good job of taking care of itself, but we are not doing a very good job of helping it.



10% Predatory species: tuna, sword, marlin, sail, halibut, +> all that are remaining over the past 50 years

50% decrease in the size of Florida Keys’ sharks in the past 50 years

100,000,000 sharks annually caught as by-catch, finned, and otherwise slaughtered

89% Hammerhead sharks are gone

80% of Thresher and White sharks are gone

75% of oceans species are harvested faster than they can reproduce


PREDATOR LOSS allows smaller fish and fry to over take “grazers” allowing algae to over grow, creating increased problems with midges, mosquitoes and other  potential disease carrying diatoms as well as robbing oxygen from the waters.

…more predators lead to greater diversity

…top predators carcasses provide food source for lesser predators

…top predators winnow down sick and weak individuals from prey populations

…predators control the balance of ecosystems

…predation creates greater species density

FOR EXAMPLE:  large decrease in black tips off of the Carolina’s led to big increase in cow nose rays, which in turn led to the collapse of the scallop fisheries, scallops being the rays’ primary food source…

In maritime Canada, the collapse of cod fishery in the 1990s corresponded with an increase in herring, shrimp and crab. This may have contributed to regional reduction in zooplankton and increases in planktonic algae…the former being food for other animals in the ecosystem and the latter overgrowth causing harm to the same system, including disease and reduction of oxygen…

In Fiji, the overfishing of reef fish coincided with an increase in coral-eating starfish, which, in turn, led to less and less coral…meaning less habitat for other fishes in the coral reef ecosystem…

In the Aleutian Islands, the diet switching of killer whales from seals to sea otters appears to have reduced the region’s sea otter population. This resulted in an increase of the otters’ prey—sea urchins—which overgrazed and harmed the region’s kelp forests, which contribute to the proper chemical balance of the waters and are havens for other prey animals…

It is all about balance…all the pieces of the ecosystem puzzle must remain in place.



50%:  Of United States population that lives within 120 miles of a coastline

50%:  Estimated necessary reduction in fishing required to avoid global decline

50%:  Decrease in North Atlantic food fish in the past 50 years

50%:  Average decrease in size of Florida Keys’ sharks in the past 50 years

50%:  Estimated average of fish sold in the United States that are mislabeled

50%:  Global commercial fishing fleet larger than oceans can sustainably support


IN THE BEGINNING, it seems sensible to establish a baseline and a starting point for the ongoing discussion and debate; to that end, a few generalizations need to be observed:

  1. There should be no doubt that man has been a poor tenant and steward of the planet

  2. Regardless of the conflicts of data, observations, and pronouncements, all point to a serious decline in the ocean’s fish stocks.

  3. People being what they are, all want their voice, their research, and their “results” heard as THE best, most accurate, and singularly accepted, creating a rather confusing shoal of analysis’s.

  4. While the internet may be considered a vast ocean of information, it must be understood that at best that ocean is only 2 inches deep.

The general consensus is that there are 5 major threats to the sustainability of the oceans’ fish stocks:

  1. Over fishing

  2. Predator loss

  3. Climate change

  4. Pollution

  5. Habitat destruction

So let’s start with #1:  over fishing.

This begins with poor fisheries management and that takes place on many, many fronts.  Lack of understanding and/or total disregard of species life cycles, mating habits, predation, and habitat is perhaps at the top of the list.  Exploitation of the next available species following the depredation of the targeted species, in other words, going  after what is next on the food chain is a major issue.  Lack of understanding of what harvest limits will allow the sustainability of a species simply comes from either lack of reliable data or deliberate ignorance of the facts.

Many will accept that “pirate fisheries” contribute to the decline by ignoring national and global rules, regulations, and “hands off” areas.  Studies have indicated that  while nations maintain a barrier of no-trespass type waters, more developed nations deliberately ignore such as it is known that policing of these areas is virtually impossible.  And this is not just for fin fish, but crustaceans and other species as well.  Largely it is the under developed countries, those that rely heavily  on fish as the primary source of protein, that are victimized by the fleets of the developed countries pirating harvests with little regard to sustainability or the rights of the under developed countries and their peoples.

If you have ever followed a shrimper down here in Florida, you can tell when the trawls have been hauled in: sea birds almost darken the sky around the boat.  Why: the crew is separating the by-catch from the shrimp and shoveling it over the side.  Shrimpers catch, pound for pound, more by-catch than shrimp and that, unfortunately, is part of the game.  Shrimp, being shrimp, require smaller mesh nets and smaller mesh nets are a lot like gun powder since they are both highly indiscriminate.

We have seen “TEDs” (turtle exclusion devices) added as a requirement to shrimp trawls, but only after a rather unpleasant fight; and, who is to say that every shrimper abides.  Being indiscriminate, trawls, for shrimp as well as other species, take in by-catch that not only includes prey, but also predators, making a real mess of the local food chain.  Statistics of by-catch, while hard to come by and sometimes questionable, are nonetheless frightening.

Governments are eager to help food producers continue to produce, regardless of the current needs; take, for example, the massive subsidies the US government gives to farmers, especially corn farmers.  It is not that much different in the fishing  industry.  However, again, people being people, some countries and commercial fisheries have found numerous ways to scam and/or circumvent the subsidy goal and process to their benefit and to the detriment of the species stock and, again, the under-developed country.  More on this later.

It makes sense that a developed country can get what it wants from another, usually under-developed country, with nets full of cash.   And that happens a lot and many decisions are short sighted, made by countries whose need for money seems greater than its peoples’ need for protein.  There are unfair fisheries partnership agreements (how many is difficult to say) that are not just blips on the decline screen; the end results of these types of agreements in the end victimize all.  Want to know and understand who is doing what and why?  Follow the money.

No one would disagree with a well-made argument that “greed kills” and in the global fisheries industry that  phrase is particularly applicable.  Great ocean trawlers,  dragging huge nets requiring tons of weights and heavy “side doors” to keep the net open, down to depths below 2000 meters, are destroying habitats and corals on a mammoth scale.  It is estimated that more than 1/3 of the oceans coral reefs have been destroyed in the last few decades.  Other commercial fishermen, seeking to capitalize on the eastern wants of “live” food fish will use cyanide to pollute  the waters and stun the fish sought so they might be harvested alive.  Clever, but, since we know what cyanide does to us, can you imagine what it does to corals and other such creatures that can’t move out of the way?  Years ago, some Bahamian lobster men would pour bleach over reefs; being heavier than water the bleach would sink to the bottom and drive the Caribbean crayfish out of its lair, into the open, easy pickings for the fishermen.  However, the bleach killed all the coral and crustaceans it touched.  Fortunately, the government put a stop to that practice.

It is the plan of Doc’s  Island, to continue to elaborate and lobby for awareness as well as corrective measures for the global crisis of the decline of the oceans’ fish.  There are not “more fish in the sea”

Film at 11.



7,141,980,300 – 2013 Total world population

5,890,885,000 – 2013 Developing Countries population

1,245,911,000 – 2013 Developed Countries population

317,402,936 – Current US population

3,000,000,000 – derive a living from fishing

1,000,000,000 – Asian peoples rely on fish as primary source of protein

60% – – fish consumption by developing countries

90% – world’s biomass contained in the oceans

.2% – estimated total ocean biomass harvested annually

70% – identified food species fully exploited or depleted

50% – decrease in North Atlantic popular food fish in past 50 years

2048-2050 – estimated date of collapse of entire fishing industry

80% – (estimated) of global catch either from data poor sources or not included in assessments

Redfish (Red Drum) -- $160

Redfish (Red Drum) — $160 

The banner photo you see above  is a Red Drum, aka “red fish” made famous by the New Orleans chef’s recipe for “blackened red fish“.  In truth, drum is a mediocre tasting animal, but then rather common.  “Blackening” it by searing in burnt butter with an overload of hot spices was at first just a novel way to charge more for a cheap fish that few ate and even less knew about…but it caught on, big time, and fishermen discovered the bland taste of the flesh was enhanced by the fiery spices…and even better, red fish where a bit of a challenge to find, hook, fight, and boat. So the popularity over the last few decades kept on until, in recent years, fishing regulations limited catch to what is called a “slot”, that is a fish between certain dimensions…a rule meant to allow young animals to grow and larger animals to continue to reproduce.  Makes sense, doesn’t it? However, who is to say every fisherman follows the rules to the letter, or shall we say to the inch?  After a great fight that began after an hour of hunting down some finning reds  while waiting for the right tide and then hauling in a good sized red, above the legal slot size, and then scanning around the slough, estuary, or horizon, and not seeing another man nor beast,  what does it take to dump that monster at the bottom of the cooler and then cover him with ice, beer cans, etc. and pray the odds are there isn’t a wild life officer within miles? Pretty simple, heh?  What the hell, right, there are plenty of fish in the sea. No, not really; not at all.  That’s why there are limits on many, many species of fish up and down every coast in every ocean that licks our shores.  If we want to continue to have a natural, wild source of protein and good sport, then we must abide by the regs. Do your homework, look at the stats…Here is a great exercise:  Google the photos of fishermen’s catches from 60 – 70 years ago…look to marinas that harbor fishing boats, both commercial and private…then Google the same for recent catches…now compare the two.  Kind of a surprise, isn’t it…What happened to those monsters from years gone by?  Fished out, and what you are seeing now are animals that have yet to mature to the size of their great-great grandfathers. Eight weeks ago, my wife’s daughter and her husband brought into the world a healthy baby boy.  I would like to teach him to fish and to fish for fish that are still there.  Don’t you want the same?

When we write here about the decline of fish stocks and the clear necessity of catch and release, size and catch limits, as well as other regulations, we are not looking to place blame on the private sector, the sport fisherman, or in other words, us. During my time on the planet I have learned that the great American futile pass time is fixing blame instead of fixing the problem.  That’s one of the reasons I got my nickname, “Doc”, because I know that wasting time placing blame is pointless and working to fix whatever the problem is the only priority. So it isn’t you or me that drained off all the red snapper to the point where we have periods when the animal cannot be caught.  Who knew?  The oceans cover over 70% of the globe; status quo logic would allow that life in those seas would be limitless, but, we now know it isn’t. Whales were hunted to the brink of extinction. Sharks numbers are dwindling largely do to a peculiar cultural desire for erections and soup. Certain species of porpoise are shrinking because they like to hang out with schools of tuna. I know commercial fisherman along the coast who suffered when limits and hands off days were placed on stripers and red snapper. Click here to see regulations, state by state that are meant to control and improve fishing stocks:  regulations But for now, let us consider this simply:  we need to improve our relationship with the planet and its creatures; we need to think about leaving some for tomorrow, for our children and grandchildren, and theirs.  We are already leaving them a load of debt, so let’s at least leave them some fun and a good source of protein.  Did we really need to literally wipe out a school of “peanut” immature mahi off of Islamorada?  Did we really eat all that mahi?  Do the people we gave fillets to still have them in their freezers, years later, stuck in the back under the also forgotten chuck steak bought on sale?

Once, while helping a former Coast Guard Captain and  head of the Florida SAR return his sailboat from a reunion in Charleston back to Jacksonville, we hooked into a nice sized Spanish mackerel coming out of Port Royal Sound. (For years most of the sailboaters I knew in the area trailed a medium Clark Spoon from a standard boat rod and reel attached to the stern pulpit.)  I cleaned the fish and within minutes I had the flesh sauteing in olive oil and garlic.  I threw in some sweet onion, bell pepper, and some fresh basil and tomato and in less than a half an hour, I was passing plates up to the captain and the other two crew members.  You would have thought they hadn’t eaten in months.  Slurp.   I chomped down on a piece of tuna that I saw the boy bring up out of the lagoon and right into the kitchen of Bloody Mary’s restaurant on Bora Bora.  Returning my sailboat, Fabulous, from the Abacos, we hooked into a nice size “football” black tuna less than an hour out of what was then Walker’s Key.  In a few hours, me and my two buddies were flat out after a great meal of fresh tuna, dirty rice and beans, the last of the salad greens and a magnum of the best plonk Green Turtle Cay had to offer.  My point is this: nothing tastes better than fish fresh from the sea; fresh, not frozen. Reason enough to keep only what you plan to eat that day.

As I continue my research and search for reliable information regarding the depletion of fishing stocks,  I have come across some facts with which to establish a foundation: More than half of the peoples of the world live within 120 miles of the oceans; all are dependent on the massive saltwater ecosystem that covers nearly 74% of the earth. Scientists have identified some 200,000 marine species but suspect that millions more actually call the oceans home. About 8% of the world’s population are fishermen, that is their livelihoods depend on coastal and marine ecosystems.  3 billion more people count on marine species as their primary source of protein. UN-tracked fisheries have shown steady declines in catches since 1988; some studies estimate that populations of large ocean fish are only 10% as big as their pre-industrial levels. Unless the current situation improves, it is estimated that stocks of all species currently fished for food are likely to collapse by 2048… or in more precise terms, your kids, your grandkids and my grandkids, and theirs aren’t going to have any fish to eat, much less experience the joy of fishing. And over fishing by commercial fleets that are 2 to 3 times what it is estimated that the oceans can sustainably support. It doesn’t look good.