June 10, 2012
It seems that some of my remarks about the purse seine fleet and Bluefin tuna about a week ago struck a chord; or better said engendered some ill will from at least some of the tuna men in that fleet toward Royal Star. After going back and reading my off the cuff commentary I can at least understand the offense, though the real impact of my expressed opinion will be none – I don’t fancy myself that important.
But in fairness to the fishermen, who are my brothers at sea competition or not, I owe at least a clarification, and explanation for my expressed frustration; in the end no amount of negative sentiment will benefit any of us; especially the San Diego based sport fishing fleet operating in Mexico.
The reality of the situation since the development of the live fish Bluefin tuna fishery in the waters of Northern Baja California is that the sport fishing fleet is the quintessential one legged man in an ass kicking contest; though not outwitted we are outmatched as fishermen in every other respect. In technology, resources, investment, mobility, capability, economic, and political influence the “sports” are absolutely impotent. There is no grey area in the equation – it is what it is.
For many years we lived a fantasy - near zero competition in a rebounding fishery that ultimately recovered to unbelievable proportions. Offshore fishing for Bluefin tuna from around 1994 – 2001 was akin to driving to the supermarket – just head out, choose the size of fish anglers desired, and let the catching begin. Of course it wasn’t always that easy, but more often than not it was.
Then the live Bluefin purse seine fishery focused on these waters and the rest is history; and the manifest frustration of my ten days prior remarks. Those were the words of a man who has lost on the Bluefin grounds five hundred times to one in the past twelve years. Inconsiderate to my fellow fishermen on the same grounds simply trying like us to make a living – yes, productive and helpful toward building strong relationships with our competition – no; but I offer no excuses, I have none – it is what it is; the inevitability of what was soon to come was too much for me; and come it did – exactly thirty six hours later.
But let me inform one and all of the truth regarding the live Bluefin fleet out there today. Most of those fishermen, including Ted Dunn of the Shogun, saw the collateral impact their colleagues outside the live fish fishery were having on the Bluefin stocks and took a stand. We, the sport fleet, were huge beneficiaries of the live Bluefin purse seine fishermen’s efforts to curtail the overall take of bluefin tuna, and limit the fishery to fishing for live take only. Two summers prior they succeeded in their efforts. It was a tremendous victory in their, and by default, our favor. I will never forget the sweet, heartwarming image of the cannery fleet turning south in the early afternoon one August and steaming away with schools of Bluefin floating like sitting ducks everywhere. We owed the Pen guys a huge debt of gratitude that day, and still do.
What we do not owe them is odious sentiment and/or contemptuous remarks. They are out there fishing, just like us, for fish that by all rights are actually more theirs than ours; we are guests in Mexican waters privileged for the opportunity; they, for the most part, are Mexican Nationals fishing in their own waters.
Bringing any kind of negative attention in Mexico to the live Bluefin fishery off Northern Baja will be detrimental to us and only us; make no mistake about it. And it only serves to create unnecessary, counterproductive sentiment between those of us on the water who need friends and allies far more than the opposite. Simply put, from the perspective of the guy already standing on one leg, we can’t afford to be tripped up or have the rug pulled from beneath us.
In closing it is also important for all of us to know that our fleet and individual boats have been assisted with fishing information, air plane information, and actual air drops of parts, and in one case medical supplies, by the Bluefin guys and pilots over the past few seasons. Several times they have gone well out of their way to help. They are aware of the impact they have on our fishing and do their best to fish selectively by targeting the biggest fish around and avoiding setting on smaller, 15 – 30 pound fish. They seek a living and harmony out there, albeit with a big edge, just like us. “It is what it is”, I’ll be the first to admit it, as well as remind everyone, and myself, that there is no sense sniveling about it. One thing certain is that now we sure do appreciate the Bluefin tuna as the gold, the platinum, they are.