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White Marlin Tracks

We have been here in Ocean City, MD since last Wednesday fishing and tracking the white marlin population along the 1000 fathom line 75 miles East of here. We made three trips last week out there and caught and released 58 white marlin. Last Thursday, we caught and released 35 white marlin which we think is the second highest daily white marlin catch in the last 25 years. It is an amazing story given that 10 years ago there was a petition to put white marlin on the endangered species list. And that is what this post is really about.

There was a time when killing a white marlin was considered a crime by most. They were felt to be so endangered that protection of the population was most critical. NOAA was bullied by the sportfishing groups who were losing their economic engine and envrios who felt that bad guys had to be stopped regardless of who they were. So there was this push and the longline industry was shut down in the mid-Atlantic, the fish recovered and now with the exception of the commercial fishing community, everybody is happy. And in the end we collectively decided the historical commercial longline industry was expendable.

I was and have remained in favor of the protection of marlin along the East Coast. It was a cultural loss to extirpate a historical industry to protect the recreational fishing groups but in the end, special interest is special interest. If I can convince you my needs are greater than your needs then you go find another job, career or place to live. Such is our world.

Part of our citizen science work is to bring attention to the choices we all can make about our communities, our environment, our fish and our heritage. Every fishermen on the east coast can capture the locations of all the marlin they catch, report them weeks later to protect their secret spots and then show NOAA and the coastal communities how many marlin are still out there. We are developing a new citizen science app for smart phones to collect data about marlin populations along the east coast. We believe the social conversation about fish populations might be more valuable to NOAA than the tedious surveys and often incorrect population models. We are not against science but believe the citizen sentiment merits equal weight to the scientific data used by NOAA and state DNR groups. Part of the disruptive impact of social media and smart phones comes from everybody… I mean everybody now getting to chime in on the issues and using their vote to affect change. It will take time but the days of NOAA committees hammering out catch quotas and taking decades to act based on special interest groups will come to an end. We will do our part at BCS to help citizens get their data into the public recor, their opinions heard and relayed via social media and push agencies to balance the science with community interest and cultural heritage of the commercial and recreational fishing communities. It is the least we can do as a public service.

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