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PICTURES of a Blue Marlin posted to the Walker’s Cay Facebook page.
By EARYEL BOWLEG
Tribune Staff Reporter
AN environmental activist has slammed the landing of blue marlins in a recent three-day Walker’s Cay Invitational deep sea fishing contest.
Sam Duncombe, reEarth’s president, called it “absolutely ludicrous” that the capture of the country’s national fish is allowed in such events, adding these “bloody tournaments” need to stop.
The invitational took place between May 26-29 at Walker’s Cay. According to the property’s website, the cay is 53 miles to the northeast of West End, Grand Bahama and its “rebirth is underway” thanks to entrepreneur and “marlin fishing enthusiast” Carl Allen.
The website noted that to participate in the tournament, all teams were required to possess a Bahamas fishing permit. The tournament rules also stated that blue marlin were eligible for catch and release or eligible for weigh-in “with a minimum 101” LJFL (lower jaw to fork length) measurement requirement, however only one per boat may be killed per fishing day.”
Gregory Bethel, acting director of the Department of Marine Resources, confirmed it was a permitted activity. Mr Bethel noted the Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction and Conservation) Regulations states any billfish, such as marlins or swordfish, caught shall be returned to the sea unharmed except where landed under the terms of an approved sword fishing event or tournament.
The cay’s official Facebook page posted pictures and videos of the teams catching the country’s national fish and the size of the fish they reeled in. One team was pictured posing and smiling next to a blue marlin hanging upside down.
“Team Wave Paver, 77’ Baylis, brought in the first blue marlin to the gantry! Congratulations guys, 508 lbs!” the caption read.
In the comments, the page wrote: “Tournament update! We have released 17 blue marlins, two have been brought to the scales and all of the catch has been donated to our friends at Grand Cay! Teams are battling it out to the finish line for top overall team and largest blue marlin.”
But in the mix of congratulatory messages were angry individuals upset that anyone is still able to land blue marlin.
However, Mr Bethel explained to The Tribune: “Normally 99.9 percent of the time you would find that with respect to billfish, they normally practice catch and release, but in the case of where you would land a blue marlin similar to the one in Walker’s Cay where the minimum length is 96 inches, what we consider a prize or trophy fish, they’re allowed to land because the length 96 inches is equivalent to just around 500 pounds… that means it’s a huge fish.”
When contacted for a reaction, Ms Duncombe criticised the sport as she highlighted how the fish’s life could be at risk due to sharks possibly catching them when they are released.
“This is a barbaric, sadistic sport and the fact that in 2021 we’re still allowing the capture of the lions and tigers of our ocean is absolutely ludicrous,” she said. “I mean at one point and time, do we evolve to the point where we understand the impact that we’re having on those individual animals?
“Can you imagine being dragged in the sea half drowned by the time they release you, if they’ve released you, all that thrashing that’s going on is attracting sharks and essentially those animals can be caught by sharks after their ordeal. I mean I don’t know what kind of sadistic psychopathic person would consider that a sport for fun. It is absolutely ludicrous that we are allowing the capture of our national fish. You think the Americans are catching the bald eagle?
“I don’t care who it is with our national fish — it needs to stop. We need to stop having these bloody tournaments. I mean what is the difference between killing a blue marlin and going into Africa and shooting a lion? There’s no difference. Those are the top predators of the ocean and the top predators on land.”
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has listed the blue marlin as being “vulnerable,” meaning the fish is “at high risk of extinction in the wild”. With blue marlins being threatened, the activist argued for no more fishing of the animal.
She added: “The whole sidebar of ‘oh, but we share it with everybody on the island’ that’s the exact same thing that the people who killed the lions and tigers would say about that. With an animal that is threatened you know you err on the side of conservation. That has been our problem that we never err on the side of conservation.”
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