Nobody asked me, but few things seem more anachronistic — that is, belonging to a time gone by — than a fishing tournament where someone wins thousands of dollars for killing a massive and beautiful blue marlin. This year’s victim at Ocean City weighed 1,135 pounds, and the Florida boat that took the great fish won more than $500,000. Yes, fishing for billfish is highly regulated, and filets from the tournament go to food banks. (Eaten any blue marlin lately? I didn’t think so. Most people say it tastes like really bad cat food.) But I find the big kill for money grotesque, a macho “sport” that hearkens to a time before nearly 8 billion of us stressed the oceans and threatened its fisheries. It’s disgusting.
Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources sent out this photo with acknowledgement of the state record the kill represented, along with this defense of the kill when I asked if anyone in the agency has second thoughts about supporting it: “Recreational fishing for billfish is highly regulated and commercial harvest is prohibited. Keeping a billfish is legal for recreational anglers provided they report it to DNR, and the U.S. landing quota set by NOAA Fisheries has not been reached. Even so, most fishing for blue marlin is catch and release.”
Self reporting? Catch and release? What do you suppose is the survival rate for billfish that have been hooked and played on a line for an hour or more?