Why Should You Protect the Environment and Practice "CPR?"

Uploaded: November fishing sessions (finished it)

Hello, Dear readers!

First, i've been updating my fishing sessions on my other post. Make sure to check it from time to time! =)

Also, Mike H. has been fishing less, but still catching some fish:

- Bass fishing at Lake Alverthorpe (You can clearly notice that NINJA Mike does a NINJA sound before setting up the hook)
- November Bass fishing at Haddon Lake

A little bonus here for those who fish the Schuylkill banks. Hehe.
It's been quite a while, huh? I hope everyone had a good time recently, and a great Thanksgiving as well. As you all know, this blog is not just about fishing as a sport...therefore, I'm bringing to you today a post mainly on environmental conservation, giving some emphasis to the practice of "CPR" - Catch, Photo, Release - one of the jargons in the fishing World.

It was while making a fishing video that I realized that a post on Environmental Conservation and CPR wouldn't be a bad idea at all. The video is already done; it was published on the Facebook page, and I'm pasting the link below:

Enjoy the video, guys. =)
I've divided this post in 5 parts:
1. The point of the post
2. What to expect?
3. The environment from a global perspective
4. The impact of overharvesting and environmental degradation in Philadelphia
5. Why should I protect the environment and practice CPR?

If you know already about part 3, you can totally skip it! It actually has to do more with History than fishing, but it helps us understand how the World is not sustainable nowadays, and HOW could we make it sustainable. Hopefully, the sad part is to realize that we would have to give away A LOT of our comfort to make that happen.

--- 1. The Point of the Post ---

As you can see, fishing is not just about putting a line in the water, or catching a fish. Maybe it's just like that at the beginning, but fishermen soon start to realize that it's MORE THAN THAT!

Every visited location is a fond memory that will never fade. Every fishing day becomes an unique day with its own mysteries and frustrations, and sometimes even a catch of a lifetime; and even more - the friends that you make and the knowledge that you gain are certainly exceptional and bonded to the heart and the soul.

Isn't it beautiful? Isn't it beautiful to have people from different backgrounds joined together by a common factor? Good fishing friends share a bond that society nowadays barely recognizes; a deep bond that resembles the loyal brotherhood of a long time ago.

The video shows a couple pictures of fishing locations that I've been to in the past 2 years. It was while making it that I thought of the importance of the "Catch-Photo-Release; practice CPR," and "Protect our environment" topics. It's been only 2 years since I've been to all those locations in the video, and some of them changed a lot already (i.e. FDR Park).

My point here is simple, and very clear: angler or not, one should realize that we have taken a toll on nature in the past couple centuries, and now it's the time to try our best to preserve nature. For anglers, the quality of fishing has been degraded for the past century or so, since the sustainability of our bodies of water was lost; In other words, since human beings started to harvest fish with a catching ratio higher than the fishes' reproduction ratio. From that point onwards, fish were no longer able to replenish its populations because we were, basically, over harvesting them.

Let's talk a little bit about the future...

--- 2. What to expect? ---

I found this question to be one of the deepest questions we can ask ourselves: "What do we expect?"
This entire semester, I heard my Electricity and Electromagnetism teacher mumbling about this specific question many times. He often said:

"Different than computers, this is a trait of the human mind. Computers are able to calculate results, but they will never be able to have expectations while looking at a formula or exercise to be solved."

Indeed, this question has brought me many hardships for the past couple months. It's truly a challenge to look at a Physics exercise, and try to expect what the result will be; or better saying, how the resulting formula is supposed to behave in the Physical way.

Okay, guys...I may have bored you out of your mind with my Physics example, but this question can actually be applied (and should) to every aspect of LIFE (including fishing, of course)! One can apply this to his/her own love life, decision making, goals for the future, and even daily actions (causality - action, reaction). This is a golden question that we should ask ourselves every time we do something of significant value. So, from this perspective, what exactly do we expect? What do I expect?

First, we have to think about "why is it so important to mention CPR and Environmental Conservation when it comes to fishing?" The answer is rather imbued in the human soul: it's important, so we will save these wonderful fishing locations, including the fishes, for future generations to come, so future generations will be able to enjoy the similar feelings that we have while being outside - with nature, or fishing with friends, or just enjoying ourselves.

It's not just about the future generations, if you think about it! These actions of protection and conservation are directly related to our moral code. One knows that there's no universal moral code, hence morality is highly influenced by sociological factors (i.e. culture), not to mention that a code that deals with morality is a social contract; however, the beauty of every moral code around the World lies in the fact that they mirror the natural concern for the well-being of other people. Therefore, one can say that protecting the environment and releasing fish is the same as having enough humility and generosity for fellow fishermen, future generations, us, and the Earth itself.

Certain things need to change, guys...and fast - we no longer have the luxury to waste time. Environmentally speaking, the expectation is simple: the human race is depleting Earth's sources at a very fast pace nowadays, and fishing will one day be degraded to a point that the sport may even disappear. Due to many different variables, such as population growth, mass production, etc, the World is no longer sustainable.

--- 3. The Environment from a Global Perspective ---

Okay...now we have talked a little bit about expectations (the future), and the main idea in this post. Now we have to deal with the past - understand why things are the way they are nowadays, and how exactly did those influence the USA. Of course, I won't be able to put every major detail out, but we can still review some brief History, and see how can that can be related to us - Philadelphians, Americans, or whatever word you define yourself with.

From a historical perspective, the sustainability of the World started to be broken at a higher pace after the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850). Those were ages of advancements and discoveries, and one can certainly see how far humanity has gone in such a short amount of time! With these advancements, new technology was discovered, the Sciences progressed at an accelerated rate - the World moved on.

A couple examples of advancements in different fields:

- Communication widened with the use of telephones (1870's). This was just the beginning of the phenomena we know as Globalization. Later came other communication/information devices: the television (1920's), the mobile phone - a.k.a cell phones (1980's), and now the Internet (1980-1990's).

-  Transportation progressed intensely with the creation of the "Car" (1770-1890. Mass production started in 1908 - the so famous Henry Ford). First came the train (1820's), then the car, then the airplanes (1910's - Model B by Wright Company).

- Comfort increased dramatically as well, and I'm not even going there. The vacuum machine came to replace the broom inside homes, and in a blink of the eye, we have now microwaves to heat our food, heather and air conditioning for different seasons of the year, etc.

I'm giving you readers this background, so you can actually see that with all these advancements and creations, all of us paid a huge toll: while humanity progressed so much, the same failed to realize that we were slowly depleting the sources that Nature provided us (let's not even get into Fossil Fuels - a non-renewable resource), not to mention that the consequences of certain productions included pollution, ground/water/air contamination, etc.

These developments were the base for our Capitalist societies, and these societies are in no way sustainable. Add mass production with population growth, and things really get out of hand! From this point onwards, I think you can picture how things will turn out in the future if the World continues ignoring Environmental Conservation as an important idea. 
--- 4. The Impact of Over harvesting and Environmental Degradation in Philadelphia ---
First, let's talk about temperature and the weather. The weather is getting pretty cold this year, and it's not even Winter yet (Winter starts at December 21st)! After Super storm Sandy hit the East coast, the weather has been quite crazy, hasn't it? We have been suffering periods of warm and cold days, we saw a little bit of snow the other day...really crazy stuff. Well, guys...this weather shift is just the beginning.
Guess what? This weird weather stuff is just one consequence related to nature's deterioration. This whole thing about Global Warming and green house gases is no joke. I read in the new edition of New Scientist last week that if emissions of CO2 don't drop, it's expected that the Earth will warm up 4 degrees Celsius by the end of 2100. Can you imagine how things are going to be at that time here in the United States of America?
Weather is certainly something important for Anglers, specially because severe droughts with raising temperatures may even deplete some water sources in this country. Personally, I remember going to the Hoover Dam last May, on the West coast. The water levels there were really low according to the locals, and looking at the markings on the rocks, it was clearly visible that water was super low (you can read more about it here). Can you imagine the impact that weather could have here in Philadelphia? Starting with the lakes, they could be totally dry by 2100. After all, people need to drink water. The Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers' levels could be down by a couple feet, meaning that the tributaries/small creeks would be directly affected by it. With changes in water temperature and water depth, the whole fish migration cycle would be messed up, not to mention their spawning behavior, habitats, etc.
Now, since this post focuses mainly on the concepts of environmental conservation and CPR, I'll give one example of each related to the Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers, respectively.  
Weather/temperature is nothing but one aspect of environmental deterioration. Pollution, which is a result of everything I said in part 3, is also another big factor that influences in our fishing. Ask any old fishing locals, and they will all tell you that the Schuylkill River was an oil dump when they were kids (1930-1960's). Only a couple Species of fish were able to survive in such a tough environment (i.e. Channel Catfish, American Eels). It's thanks to the Water Department, and MILLIONS of dollars spent in water treatment (money that goes out of your pocket), that the Schuylkill is better nowadays. And even today, when the River is so much better, there are still people out there calling the Schuylkill River the "Sewer" of the city, where "dead bodies" are dumped. I would love to remind all those people that the water that all Philadelphians drink partially come from the Schuylkill and the Delaware Rivers after water treatment is performed.
The Schuylkill River is definitely better, but it's far from clean. From the Greys Ferry portion downwards, one can still observe a thin layer of oil/chemicals floating on the waters of the River as the tide moves in and out. Would you eat a fish that comes out of a River like that? That's an interesting question that I'll discuss in the next section, heh.

Note: Also, it's good to remember that many different bodies of water around Philadelphia still suffer from "acid mine drainage." You can know all about it by clicking on the link! The Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek are just two examples...it doesn't only contaminate the water, but can also kill fish due to acid shock.
The Delaware River also suffered a lot over the years, specially from over harvest. Believe it or not, the Delaware River is an excellent example of fish depletion due to over harvesting. I thought it would be good to introduce this idea here, so the reader can learn a little bit more about PA's history when it comes to fishing and fish. I'll copy and past a little excerpt of a very interesting report that can be found here. I read it a while back, and I found it to be very surprising:
"Humans took advantage of the migratory behavior of spawning Atlantic sturgeon to develop a fishery for Atlantic sturgeon flesh and roe (i.e. caviar). Caviar production in the United States did not flourish until the late 19th century (Cobb 1900), subsequently transforming the Delaware River Atlantic sturgeon fishery from a small, flesh-driven business into the caviar capital of the North America (Saffrom 2002). By the late 1800's, the Delaware River Atlantic sturgeon fishery was the largest in the Unites States and produced 75% of the US sturgeon harvest from 1890-1899 (Townsend 1900). Between the collection roe from mature females for caviar production and the canning of the smoked flesh, the fishery provided a way of life for many people in search of post-Civil War prosperity (Saffron 2002). Delaware River landings reached a peak in 18888 with a total catch of nearly 3000 metric tons of Atlantic sturgeon (Smith 1894). The success of the fishery was short-lived, and by 1900 the total catch was less than 10% of the peak harvest totals (Ryder 1890; Cobb 1900)."

Isn't that sad, but amazing at the same time? In less than 10 years, the Sturgeon population in the Delaware River was reduced to almost nothing due to over harvesting! And because of this tragic event in history, even nowadays, the Sturgeon population did not recover yet. As far as I know, reports showed a couple Sturgeon fingerlings in certain portions of the Delaware River, but no signs of great migrations around. Wouldn't it be great if we could be catching Sturgeons at the Delaware River? Think about it.

--- 5. Why Should I Protect the Environment and Practice CPR? ---

I guess the answer is pretty evident after all this post, isn't it? Hehe. Anyways...here's a few things that you should take in consideration:

- Fish Comsumption: PCBs and heavy metals

As mentioned above, Philadelphia suffered a lot from water pollution and different types of contamination (i.e. Acid mine drainage). Therefore, the fish that you get from any public body of water in Philadelphia (or around PA) may contain PCBs and heavy metals that are harmful for your body. In other words, I highly advise anglers to not eat the fish from public waters unless they are very certain that the fish are safe to eat. Personally, I have tested different samples of fishes from different bodies of water around Philadelphia for heavy metals, and many of them turned out to be "harmful" (specially bottom feeders; i.e. Channel Catfish, Common Carp, American Eels). When it comes to PCBs, it's much harder to test. It's known, however, that PCBs are stored in fatty tissue; therefore, according to research, cleaning and cooking the fish properly should reduce PCBs up to 75%.

Notice that the symptoms for consuming PCBs and heavy metals are usually not acute, but chronic (i.e. carcinogens - the production of cells that cause cancer in our body). Therefore, a person may not notice the harm done until the same has consumed contaminated fish for a long time. Always watch out for these two little devils!

Trout is definitely the one Species of fish in Philadelphia that are safe to eat, since they are stocked by the PA Boat and Commission. Therefore, I always encourage all readers to go catch them, and eat them! After all, a lot of our money goes for use in Trout fish hacheries and so on. Make sure you have your Trout Stamp!

- Overharvesting and Selective Harvest

Make sure you keep your fishing spots "sustainable." In other words, when you go fish, don't take fish that are rare or too big. Taking trophy fish from a certain body of water, for example, may damage the fish genetics of the whole environment. The concept is actually pretty simple: trophy fish have the genetics to give birth to potential big fish. Therefore, when someone removes a trophy fish, that same person is very likely killing millions of offsprings that could have existed, from which a couple could also been trophy fish. Overharvesting also leaves a person with less fish to fish. Anglers often complain how the fishing is not the same as before, and fishing quality usually drops because of over harvest. The FDR park in South Philadelphia is a clear example of that.

The right thing to do is to practice selective harvesting. In other words, CPR the fishes that have a significant importance to a certain body of water, while taking others of less significance. Take only what you will eat, and never waste. One curious fact: sometimes, it's not about sizes... One of the unsolved mysteries in the World of fishing is the cycling populations of Black Crappie. During a certain time period, they get stunted; during another certain time-frame, their population diminishes, but they grow big in sizes! This cycle is definitely interesting, and it applies perfectly to the concept of selective harvest. By harvesting stunted populations of Black Crappie (check your state's creel limit laws first!), you can actually expect to break the cycle. On the other hand, if you harvest too many, then you will have none to catch.

Harvesting requires a vast amount of knowledge. Without such, blind harvesting fish can lead to extreme consequences to the sport. Always keep that in mind!

- Respect the environment: don't litter

Don't forget that you are not the only one fishing in PUBLIC waters. Therefore, in respect to others, you should always keep your spots CLEAN. In other words, leave all your trash with you. If you watched the video above, you will notice that I've pointed out that the Race Street Pier is no longer opened for fishing. Truth is: it was opened for fishing when it first opened, but the owners of the pier didn't like that idea very much. Using our mistakes (anglers) to back their reasonings, they were able to close the wonderful spot down. They declared that anglers were "destroying the property, leaving bloody marks behind, leaving trash on the floor, and one angler hooked a little girl by accident."

Oh well...you will have to agree with me on this one: nobody likes to see their own property getting messed up. Therefore, we should always pay attention when we cast (safety first), and always make sure that our surroundings are clean of our trash.

Let's remind ourselves that the image of an angler here in Philadelphia is made by no one other than ourselves. Therefore, protecting the environment and respecting wildlife is the same as giving away a good image of youself to your family, your peers, and everyone else in this country. You are doing a favor to you, the ones close to you, future generations to come, not to mention that you are moraly setting a right image/reputation, which should make you feel good!

Hopefully these will convince you that protecting the environment and practicing selective harvest and CPR are very beneficial for everyone, including yourself.

The World may be a little bit messed up (okay, maybe more than a little), but hope is still out there. As far as more people get educated and united, there will be changes.

I hope you learned something new in this post,

Best of luck to all of us,

Long Days and Pleasant Nights,


Leo S.