Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where have the big fish gone?

Fishermen like to take pictures and show off their catch. Can that be turned into science? Yes, and the results are shocking. Where have all the big fish gone?

A study of fishing dock pictures from Key West shows a dramatic change in the last 50 years, the big fish are gone, G-O-N-E. No more big ones on the docks at Key West. In an interview, biologist Loren McClenachan talks about this research and what it all means.

Have we learned our lesson? I hope so. One reason the big fish are missing now is that fishery regulations protect some species like goliath grouper, and that's a good sign. Also, the protected areas near Key West are helping fish recover and helping me stay optimistic.

But I begin to wonder if we'll solve these problems when I see attempts to weaken federal law that requires sustainable fishing and other attempts to allow fishing to exceed scientific limits such as New England's war on science.

But then I get optimistic again when I see the people who buy fish taking a stand for responsible management and truly wise use of fish, including Gorton's in New England and Wal-Mart.

Regardless of our response to the loss of big fish, this story of loss is as American as John Prine. This song can tell you what happened (see YouTube video at the bottom of the post).

Key West 1957

Key West 1958

Key West 1965-79

Key West 1965-79

Key West 1980-85

Key West 1980-85

Key West 2007

Paradise John Prine


Anonymous said...

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Adam Schwindt said...

I wonder if this alarming trend is correlated with increasingly exaggerated "fish tales" among fisher(wo)men.

Not to make of this at all, the enormous groupers in the early images are harder and harder to find. Being protogynous hermaphrodites and reaching maturation at a late age, removing these large individuals (mostly males) drastically reduces recruitment.

Great blog by the way.

Oceans 4Ever said...

Saw this release and your post on it is excellent. I think these visuals need to be as widely distributed as possible - with your post! ~Cindy

Mister Kurtz said...

May I commend to the readers of this post "The Last Marlin" by Fred Waitzkin (author of Waiting for Bobby Fisher, among other things). Although a story of families as much as fishing, anyone who cares about pelagic fish will enjoy it. said...

Wow, the fish really are getting smaller... by a LOT!