One Fisherman’s Lament

Yes, a fish changed my life. For several years I helped lead a coastwide fight against government bureaucrats and commercial interests. We prevailed with a fishing moratorium that resulted in the greatest comeback of any fish species. Striped bass, as I write in my new book Striper Wars, "are the aquatic equivalent of the American bald eagle."

Yet today, those majestic marlin are on the edge of oblivion.  They’re being caught – and thrown back dead as "bycatch" – by longline vessels pursuing other species.  At any given moment, up to 100,000 longlines carrying nearly 5 million hooks are sweeping across the high seas capturing whatever strikes the bait.

Among the "highly migratory species," as they’re called, the vaunted bluefin tuna and many types of sharks are in terrible trouble, too.  Only the swordfish, after fishermen bit the bullet on tough regulations, have begun to show signs of a comeback.  Meantime, factory trawlers bulldoze the seafloors, snaring as much as 120,000 pounds of fish with a single scoop of the net.  Little wonder that the United Nations tells us fully 75 percent of the world’s fish populations are being overfished. 

How long can this go on?  A generation ago, our oceans yet teemed with fish and were thought inexhaustible.  Now entire webs of life – from sharks at the top of the food chain to plankton at the bottom – are being shattered.  When will we come together to fight the ocean revolution?

(Dick Russell is a sports fisherman and author. Please visit, where he will be writing about the striped bass and more through July 15.)

Dick Russell

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