I’ve spent nearly 45 years of my life on or near the water. The early days
in the sixties, as a net puller and craber. From the seventies and on I was
a commercial shark fisherman. I studied the behavior of these predators from
the surface and below and often in captivity. I learned a lot, but during my
59 years I’ve found another species of shark almost as dangerous if not as
deadly. They walk on two legs, come in many shapes and sizes, and their
egos, lies, greed and deceptions can leave another human desperate and dying
just as sure as from those with fins and teeth. You can find them in board
rooms or behind expensive, wooden desks with very impressive titles and
degrees. They all feed on self-indulgence, each one fighting over the
biggest scientific monetary endowment, while destroying the dreams of
Back in the sixties, I watched as two of these land sharks – one, an
intellectual scientist, the other, a successful entrepreneur – take a woman
biologist’s dream and claim it for themselves. Her dream was The Cape Haze
Marine Lab and the biologist was Eugenie Clark. (Author of Lady with a Spear
and The Lady and the Sharks) These two sharks tried to feed on a young
fisherman and his wife but when they couldn’t manipulate or control his
destiny, they set out to wipe out his livelihood in the name of
conservation. Their legacy lives on but in their wake was planted the seeds
of more egos, more greed and more deception. This new breed of
environmentalist mentality is hell-bent on disrupting ecosystems worldwide,
while claiming the necessity of World Management.
In Florida, from 1935 to 1950, a thriving shark fishing industry captured
sharks for their livers, rich in vitamin A. Later, in the seventies and
eighties, sharks were captured for fins and meat but on a much smaller
I began fishing exclusively for shark during this period. As an independent
fisherman, I captured more than 6000 sharks from a fishing zone not more
than six miles from shore, nor more than nine miles long and at a depth
never exceeding 45 feet. A small area, for sure. Using a long line strung
along the Gulf floor, I kept extensive records of my catch – species, sex,
tides, moon, bait used, etc. My catch records were so precise that Dr.
Stewart Springer, formerly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, often
claimed my records were the best he’d ever examined.
Not during any of my years of shark fishing was there any evidence of
declining fish stocks. In fact, during 1985 upward, catch totals began to increase.
From 1980 to present day, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission, in concert with the Mote Marine Laboratory, have mounted a
successful propaganda and regulations campaign against both commercial and
recreational fishermen. Not only crippling all fishing industries, but
eliminating shark harvest completely. Everything from stone crab, to
grouper, to jewfish, redfish, red snapper and shark have been regulated ad
nauseam. All for the so-called need for health and balanced ecosystems.
Since my main expertise lies with sharks, I’ve had to contend with a slew of
self-proclaimed eco-activists, as I’ve prepared to release my book, Sharkman
of Cortez. My two-legged sharks from years past have become what many
fishermen call “eco-greenies” of today. And debating them leaves one
frustrated. In an attempt to set the record straight on declining fish
stocks – sharks – I will address three questions most avoided by the
conservationists – the greenies that attack me and those like me:
1. Asked if they would like their job or the industry in which they work
eliminated due to false information fabricated by scientists, I’m told no
they would not. Then they chant like a mantra, that fabricated nugget of
science: “over a hundred million sharks killed every year.” That is the
benchmark by which all environmental web sites base their beliefs. There
will be more in the news soon as to how this calculation came to be….
2. Asked if they would like their right to fish along a stretch of beach
denied, again, the answer is “no.” Yet this was done to the members of the
South Florida Shark Club in 2009. The eco-greenie logic: “well, sharks are
over-fished and I don’t agree to catching a species that is declining.”
(Still referring to that original, fabricated benchmark.)
3. When asked what he/she could say to those who’ve suffered the tragedy of
a loved one dying needlessly from a shark attack: “I would not wipe out a
species due to human death. (Though tragic.)” No one is asking to “wipe out
an entire species,” just to prevent tragedies.
In conclusion: I, and most American fishermen, don’t believe in finning
sharks and discarding what remains. I don’t want to kill every shark in the
ocean, it’s not possible – that would be like trying to kill every fire ant
in Florida. I just believe in capturing the predators that jeopardize public
safety along the beaches. And I believe we all have the right to fish in
peace, unrestricted by the unjust regulations put forth by over-educated
egos driven by publicity and greed.
Eco-Greenies or two-legged sharks? Take your pick.