Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect World, and the majority of fisherman never think about these things and the consequences they have on all fisherman. So, for the few fisherman that do understand that we need to preserve our fisheries, they tend to keep the best fishing spots to themselves. Now, I understand this. I really do! Who wants "yahoos" going to a great spot you found, leaving their trash there, keeping every fish they catch, and practicing bad fishing habits in general? Not me.
Now, again, I am aware that we do not live in a perfect World. However, I do feel, based on comments that I've read, and fishermen Leo has introduced to me, that we have a pretty good group of guys following the Blog and Facebook Page. Most of them have been willing to listen to what we have to teach, and begun to implement it themselves. The entire point is: we are not just throwing our favorite fishing spots on the Internet "willy nilly" for any and all to see. They are going on a Blog, and a dedicated Facebook Page. Are there some irresponsible fisherman getting their info from us? I'm sure there are a few. But most who frequent Leo's blog are fairly new to fishing, and just thirsty for knowledge.
As I said above, education is paramount, but we can't even get to that point without PARTICIPATION. And that is where Leo really stands out. His blog has an amazing collection of techniques, tips, tricks, and everything you would need to know before trying fishing for the first time. If new fisherman are constantly getting skunked, using the wrong techniques, or fishing in places that don't contain many fish, it can be very discouraging. If it is too discouraging, the new fisherman may quit fishing, and now you just lost a possible steward for life. The more of us out there fishing and educating, the better the fishing will be for everyone involved. Some things just have to be shared with others so that we can all enjoy it. In a way, keeping your spots secret is almost as bad as over harvesting a particular body of water. Whether you are diminishing some one's enjoyment by removing the fish, or keeping a fun spot secret, you are diminishing another fisherman's enjoyment. And that fisherman might have just been someone who can help us educate others and improve the fishing for all. I know it's complicated, but I truly think that keeping fishing spots secret hurts all fisherman in the long run."
In order to understand how we can get from guarding spots and educating people to the behavior of the human soul and the sustainability of the World, one should start by reading about the history of this sport and the dramatic changes that occurred to the environment since ancient times. After all, it's good to know where all of this came from, isn't it? For now, these are the three concepts you need to grasp to fully understand the extent of the problem we face nowadays:
- You need to know where and when in time the concept of guarding spots started, and why.
- You need to know what sustainability is. Is our World sustainable at the moment?
- You need to know that environmental conservation is a modern idea.
Maybe after reading this portion of the post, one will be able to realize that people shape the sport of fishing, and fishing consequently shape the lives of fishermen. I'll briefly introduce you to the ancient and modern World of fishing, hence I've read so much about it since I was young!
PART I - About Education and Guarding Spots
The first fishing book written by a woman came out just during this time frame: "The second edition of the Book of St. Albans," portraying specific fishing techniques and fly patterns by Dame Juliana Berner. She observed that fishes ate different types of flies according to different seasons, laying out descriptions of a fly pattern for every month of the year. Isn't that amazing? Empirical data dating back to the 1500's, and a huge portion of people nowadays have long forgotten that field experience can overcome the rules by the books.
Then, why didn't human beings preserve nature? This answer is quite complicated! If there's a fatal flaw in the human soul, it's the flaw of "regret." People did not preserve nature at that time because they didn't feel like it was needed. They couldn't really visualize the long run consequences of their actions. Human life is so short that sometimes we can't really visualize the chronic effects of our actions. That's when the "regret" part comes in. How many times have I heard "I should have spent more time with him/her;" "I could have prevented it;" etc? Many times. Why? The reason is simple: we will only know how valuable something is after we regret it. The worst part is: by the time we regret it, it's too late. Humans learn with mistakes; humans progress with mistakes. Without mistakes, is there really progress?
I'm not going to get too philosophical here, but I want to point out that our situation nowadays is the result of the actions of our great great...great forefathers. Therefore, this lack of sustainability is definitely not something that started yesterday, a week before, or even centuries before. It all started a long time ago, and we are suffering from it. That's when the educational approach pumps in! I could go on forever and ever about David Hume and his theory of human causality, but I'll just say that humanity has learned through bad ways that preventing is a key to many problems. Therefore, we have the modern idea of environmental conservation - the idea that the environment needs to be protected at all costs, so the World can survive longer.
So, now you know the truth: The World is not sustainable, and so it's our waters. We face many dangers nowadays, and if we don't do anything about freshwater, not only fishing will cease, but life as well (we all need water to drink)! Now you know the history of fishing, the definition of sustainability, when the concept of guarding spots started to appear, and why our ancestors did not apply the idea of environmental conservation.
Now that you know the basics, we can start talking about the solutions for a better aquatic environment.
Let's related it to fishing now. When it comes to fishing, an educated fisherman that loves the sport knows what is right and what is wrong to do. He knows that there's a consequence for every bad action performed. Once educated, he is able to make proper decisions that will eventually aid himself, others, and the community as well. That angler will set an example for others and future generations, learn to love nature and wildlife (if the person really loves fishing, it will eventually happen), respect oneself and others around, and so on. I can say this with confidence because I'm a product of it.
Education in environmental conservation creates respectful individuals (stewards) that will follow rules, and respect forms of life and nature. Jay cited that on his e-mail, and I couldn't agree more. Education is the base for EVERYTHING, and nothing can be captured by the human mind without having proper tools to perform the job.
Everyone is entitled to pursue knowledge, as knowledge should be free. It's sad to see how society has shifted in terms of education (Just one example: public, private - different levels of teaching quality), but there are still free sources out there. The Internet is certainly a good tool for it, and the Blog is here to emphasize that there are still people out there willing to educate and inform at no costs whatsoever. The Blog deals on the equality and fairness of all, it deals on knowledge for those who seek it, so those can turn that knowledge into wisdom.
Therefore, I'll close this portion of the post with a very powerful word: "Sapientia." In other words: "Wisdom." The Blog focuses on giving knowledge to those who seek it, and there's a big difference between knowledge and wisdom.
3. Why Guarding Spots is not the right approach for a better environment?
I like to make the analogy of Guarding Spots with Oligarchy, and Education with Democracy (Thanks, S.B.). Thus, the name of this post. For those who are not familiar with the definition of the word Oligarchy, it is "a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who pass their influence from one generation to the next." As for Democracy, it's basically our system nowadays. Viva la revolucion! Heh, just joking.
Guarding a certain spot and having that spot for oneself or a small group of people is certainly Oligarchy. One could argue that guarding spots can be environmental friendly, since the person is restricting access to people who are environmentally ignorant (among others). However, even if the argument is plausible, all this would do is delay environmental destruction, hence this approach does not focus on informing/teaching people about environmental conservation.
Is this what we really want? This approach does not only not give a solid solution, but it's also bad propaganda for fishing as a sport. After all, one can think: "are fishermen selfish for guarding spots?" I'll refrain myself from expressing my opinion on this question, but I'll leave this question for you - reader - to think about. It's good to notice that this approach also doesn't focus on union or progress. Emphasizing: It's simply a provisory (if not selfish?) action that delays the problems that we have nowadays.
Note: I remember watching a video once about race inside a certain community, where African Americans started to move in and White Americans started to move out. When the reporter asked the lady about the reason she was moving out, she said: "I no longer feel safe in this community." Then, the reporter followed: "Have you ever been assaulted or threatened here?" Her answer was short and simple: "No." Followingly, the reporter told her many interesting facts that proved the "white rumors" inside the community wrong: the educational system inside the community was still the same after African Americans moved in, the crime rate did not increase, and yet she moved out of there. Now, I know I'm talking about race over here, but I ask you - reader: is this the solution for racial problems in this country? Can this example be compared somehow with this post? Plus, this is something for you to think about: what is the proper solution?
This example above is to show you that this concept of guarding spots is not just related to fishing, but also related to the human mind. It's good for us to realize that one aspect of our mentality can be applied to many different areas of our lives. Think about it.
Well...it's good to note that Oligarchy has never solved any of our problems in the past, or the problems of many around the World. The system was often dragged into the small groups' needs, and people just got tired of it. No wonder we don't use the oligarchical system anymore. I'm not saying that Democracy is solving anything, but I can certainly say that democracy is the most plausible form of system to promote union and changes in the society.
Again - Education is the key for a better environment, and this Blog and Facebook page will never agree with the idea of guarding spots. If stewardship is promoted, the concept of burning spots will no longer exist because anglers will learn how to share among each other, and educate those who commit flaws when it comes to the sport or the environment.
4. On fishing pressure: is it good or bad?
Another argument that I've heard a lot from people that guard spots is "Fishing Pressure." Most of them say it's a bad thing, and most of them agree that an environment that has low fishing pressure has better catching ratios while a body of water that is heavily fished has very poor catching ratios. Scientifically speaking, this turns out to be TRUE. One may ask: "Why?" Well...I'm going to give you guys the GOLDEN answer (based on sciences and studies). Before I do that, let me state that a lot of people tend to confuse the consequences of FISHING PRESSURE with the consequences of HARVESTING, which are two very different types of consequence.
The consequences of fishing pressure, scientifically speaking, are GOOD for the fish and challenging for the fisherman. The consequences of harvesting fish, scientifically speaking, are BAD for both of them (the fish is killed - ugh, and we have less fish to catch).
Are you guys ready for a lesson on fish behavior and evolution? Hah. I hope so!
So, the golden question is: "Why is fishing pressure good for fishing?" And the GOLDEN answer is: fishes can adapt and evolve! I know it's hard to believe, but it's scientifically proven. I'll give you a little something to think about:
Imagine that you were eating a sandwich at a restaurant one day. Suddenly, after a bite, you find yourself hooked with a gigantic silver metallic object that you have never seen before, but gives you enough pain as it pierces your flesh! Then, you suddenly realize that the metallic object is attached to some kind of flexible material that you hadn't noticed before. You are dragged by it out of the restaurant, into the sky - you can no longer feel the soil, and the weight of your body makes the metallic object apply even more pressure on your pierced flesh. It drags you out of the atmosphere, and into the space! Upon lack of oxygen and increased pressure, you feel your body suffering from excruciating pain - you can't breathe! However, even with the pain, you are still able to see, and you see something that YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN BEFORE - SOMETHING THAT IS UNKNOWN TO HUMAN KIND! After experiencing such, whatever dragged you out of Earth puts you back in Earth. Suddenly, you can breathe again - the psychological and physical pain are still there, but you are in shock due to the new knowledge that you have gained. This is something that you may forget in the future, but the depths of your mind won't.
This example reminded me of the Aerosmith music (Girls on Summer, end of video). Hah. Wow...that was pretty wild, wasn't it? Not realistic at all! But guess what, guys? Well, guys...that's exactly what happens to the fish, isn't it? They get out of the water only to find that everything is blue, and they can't breathe. They find out that there's a whole new universe outside their own, and they go back into the water (considering that you released it) with a certain amount of knowledge that other fish may not have.
It's with that amount of knowledge that fish instincts' EVOLVE. Wouldn't it be the same for us? How would you react if you saw that sandwich again, huh? I bet you would NEVER eat it again! How about next time you look up at the sky, trying to see if that "invisible" flexible material is somewhere around? Fishes do the same thing! It may take them once, twice, or even three times the experience, but they get smarter every time they are released.
Take Largemouth Bass in consideration: they are very finicky about lures, and they will very likely not hit a lure that is heavily used in a certain body of water (unless they are hungry! Heh This is one of the weaknesses). Somehow, they suspect that something is just not right. Another example: Common Carps that have been caught and released multiple times will not eat your bait if they can see the hook, or even the thick line or sinker around it. These are facts of fish evolution, guys!
That's why I said that the consequences of fishing pressure and harvesting are very different. If catch and release is performed, a high fishing pressure will positively make the fish evolve, creating a more difficult and challenging environment for fisherman to catch fish ("From the day fishing began, it has always been about humans trying to outwit fishes...").
Therefore, if more and more stewards are created, we don't have to worry about fishing pressure being a bad thing. As far as we catch and release, and treat fish with utmost care (use a net, leave them out of the water for as short as possible, etc), the battle will be there! Fish will be smarter, and we will have to get smarter to catch them.
If fish are harvested, though...then, one can forget everything about this evolutionary theory. The evolution ends there with death. However, once again: the effects of fishing pressure are not to be confused with the consequences of harvesting fish.
And seriously, guys? If I knew I would be put back on Earth, from a humane perspective, I would withstand the pain and gladly be dragged out of the Earth to see the "unknown." I'm a scientist at heart, after all...
From all this information, I'm pretty sure you can draw your own conclusions on this topic of Education Vs. Guarding Spots. From now onwards, I'll focus a little bit more on the "goals" of this Blog - why have I created it, and where do I want to go with it.
PART II - About the Blog and its Objectives
5. On the propagation of information
Some have been criticizing the Blog since it was created, asking me to not reveal specific locations or refrain myself from revealing certain types of information.
I'll remind everyone here that I have rights just as everyone else does, and it's through my free will that I propagate information on this Blog and the Facebook Page. Freedom of speech. I'll emphasize here that all spots that I specifically introduce are public, and it's my right to decide if I want to share these public spots with others or not. Since I'm a believer of education over everything else, I'm more than willing to share all of them!
I'm a scientist at heart: I collect data using the empirical approach, and I expose them to all. What happens with that information is out of my control. If people want to use it in good or bad ways, that's something that I cannot control. I can only wish that it's used in good ways, and I do more than just wishing: I emphasize all the time about catching and releasing, maintaining clean environments, practicing selective harvest, and so on. In other words, I promote fishing as positively as possible. Like Jay says in his e-mail, I don't propagate information to become rich or famous - I do it for good causes: promote fishing as a healthy and good sport; promote stewardship and environmental conservation; educating people about many things in life; and so on.
It's free, guys. What do I have to gain by spending all this time on this? I clearly do this because I love fishing as an sport - it's a passion, a hobbie, and I want others to experience similar wonderful experiences that I had in the past. I believe that the World can be a better place, and so can be fishing!
6. Is it all about fishing?
Certainly not! "Fishing is a deeper immersion in life," guys. The Blog and the Facebook Page are mainly focused on fishing, but the goal here is to create a better society and environment for us and future generations to come. For example:
The Blog promotes fishing and stewardship, which motivates more people to follow laws and do what is right. People start to purchase fishing licenses, fishing gear, etc. This increases the state's budget when it comes to fishing, which is money that SHOULD be spent back on us. Fishermen are always complaining about the lack of law enforcement from the Game Warden, but how can we expect to have proper law enforcement without giving funds to the state? If they had enough funds and still did a poor job, then, it would be a whole different story.
The educational approach that the Blog offers promotes union and progress. I believe that educated people will fight for what they love. When hardships show up on the path of fishing, I expect conscious fishermen to stand up and act to protect/enforce their ideals. So, one of the Blog's objective is to create conscious fisherman who will be active within their communities, and fight for fairness and justice. The Blog is saying: "Hey...if you notice that there's something wrong, or something is lacking somewhere, you should act." Let's not forget that WE ARE THE ONES sustaining this whole business that is fishing! We are the ones buying expensive equipment, blah blah blah... Therefore, we have the rights and we should have the guts to do our little revolutions for what we think is right, or what we think should change.
Sociologically and Psychologically speaking...
Fishing is certainly a sport that trains both body and mind. Not only that, fishing is often socializing! Fishing with family, friends, neighbors...this is, indeed, socialization! Isn't this beautiful, guys? We may not know each other at heart, but we are all united by one aspect of our lives: we love fishing. If you guys are updated on the Blog, and read about the FishAThon, you will know that this event was all about this! In a single day, teams around the country united to help the environment by fishing 24 hours straight. I didn't know them at all, but I knew this: we all loved fishing, and we were all fighting for the same cause.
These are only a couple aspects that the Blog has to offer. Since the beginning of this post, I've been emphasizing that it's not all about fishing. Heh.
7. What about the Law?
One of the reasons for creating the Blog was to gather conscious fishermen in Philadelphia."Why?," one would ask. Simple: besides sharing information about the sport and socializing, we cannot depend only on the government or the law to fix all the problems we have. As a matter of fact, I'm very open to say that the quality of law enforcement that the Boat and Commission offers is really really bad. I've seen enough illegal stuff going on around me (often I try to deal with it myself), and I've rarely seen the Game Warden there when the illegal stuff is going on.
That's why WE MUST ACT! That's why we must remain strong, educate more and more and more about the ethics of environmental conservation and conscious fishing, and never give up (being Mike Iaconelli now! YEAH!). Unity is the key to promote progress, and the Blog and Facebook Page were create to do that. United we stand, people! We can bring great changes if we want to, changes that we often can't do alone.
8. Is the Blog and the Facebook Page a plausible solution for a better environment?
I'll leave this part of the post for you to fill in. After all the things you have read so far, I'm sure you have an opinion about me and my ethics when it comes to fishing and life. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post: "After reading the rest of this post, I'll welcome all to judge me for my ideals and future goals. Hey...feel free to send me an e-mail if you want to be part of this discussion, or just send feedback: email@example.com " There we go! Now you know all about it.
Is education really a plausible solution? Yes, it's. However, as much as we want to believe in a better World, ideas are very different than actions. We talk about constant ideas to change the World, but performing them is a whole different idea! How effective this solution will be depends on the amount of people's participation, and their willingness to do so.
The Blog and the Facebook Page will be here to always remind you that there's hope for our World to become sustainable, and there's hope for our waters to become sustainable. For the World, many sacrifices will have to be made to attain sustainability - one would be naive enough to think that there's hope for the union of the human race. Well, call me naive then. Heh. Better to believe in it than being hopeless on the subject. Pandora's box, guys.
As for our waters, I'll continue to believe that education is the key.
Thank you for your time, guys! Thank you for your patience, and for following the Blog and the Facebook Page. I couldn't have done what I did so far without all of you - after all, what would be the Blog and the Page without readers to access it? Am I correct? Heh.
Let's move with the fight! Best of luck for all of us,
Long Days and Pleasant Nights,