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You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?
—Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.
Fishing, as with other forms of hunting, exists in a weird space between survival and sport. Conservation, recreation, protein, and pescetarianism all exist somewhere in between. While I’m reading Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, these thoughts seem worth entertaining.
Humans have, or at least had, ingenious ways of sourcing food—of surviving, like the inuit of northern Greenland who must hunt Narwhale for their Vitamin C rich skin, and ferment seabirds in seal skins.
On the other hand humans frequently abuse animals in the name of sport: cockfights, dogfights, bull running / fighting, or in the name of commercial interests, i.e. overfishing.
Big game hunting is often justified with the byline “for the sport of it.” You might expect me to continue ranting on about the cruelty of killing Marlin, Whales, Lions etc., meat is murder etc. This was the vague position I set out writing this column. Funny how you can change your mind in 400 words.
Sports hunting cannot be the bane of conservation, as it has been historically. It must be its front line. “For the sport of it” need not be a terrible justification for killing animals. In short, the Hemingway Fishing Competition implemented a tag and release system, saving hundreds of fish in this year’s event alone. It is a policy the International Game Fishing Association is implementing the world over. The point is that hunting for sport can further conservation efforts to support endangered species, not to mention the control of pest species.
Both my Granddad and Hemingway lived in a time when ‘overfishing’ wasn’t a word. It is hard to blame them for filling their boots when all they had to do was dip them over the side to do so. Now with a little foresight we can use the same sporting spirit to correct their mistakes.