A long, long, long, long time ago, we were living in the stone-age, or more precisely the paleolithicum, the early-, or pre-agricultural stone-age. In that age, a man had to go out into wild nature and get food for himself and his family & tribe. If not, they would starve, and there was no safety net to prevent that. There were not even rubbish bins to salvage half-eaten pizzas and mouldy pieces of bread from back then; no success in hunting and gathering was a pretty dramatic failure in the bygone world of hunter-gatherers.
But, these days it’s different. We went through the neolithical revolution and the industrial revolution, and we have industrialized agricultural food production, and there is no need anymore to go out and catch your own food to prove that you are a man. For the majority of humans, the stone-age and hunter-gatherer existence have ended several thousands of years and many generations ago. But not everybody has gotten the memo, it seems: A lot of guys, too many in my opinion, still think that catching their own fish is the way to demonstrate their manliness.
Two weeks ago I was scuba diving in Botany Bay, the bay just south of Sydney, where Captain Cook first landed on Australian soil. It’s a fantastic body of water, very close to a large metropolitan area, but still with many relatively unspoilt spots, and really nice biodiversity.
So, there I was, at the end of a dive, roughly 7 meters deep, admiring a weedy seadragon, a seahorse unique to temperate water Australia. A fascinating fish! I tried to be as calm and non-threatening as possible to get the animal to show its natural behaviors. It was one of these one-with-nature moments. All of a sudden, I hear a ‘cling’ sound on my tank, and moments later I feel a piercing pain in my right forearm. I look to the right, and I see a fishing hook dragging up the neoprene of my wetsuit. Blood squirting out from underneath the suit stains the seawater red. My knife is in my harness on my right hip, so I can’t reach it with my right arm which is being dragged up at accelerating speed. By now I am a few meters off the bottom, and the fishermoron above is pulling me up in series of rapid jerks. I grab the hook with my left hand, and while I manage to remove it from my forearm, it now gets stuck in my left index finger. That hurts quite a bit, and I have to use my freed right hand to hold onto the sinker to avoid having a chunk of meat ripped out of my finger. By now, I am almost at the surface, and a few fin kicks later, my head sticks out of the water. “Stop! You have hooked me!” I shout at the fishermorons. “Where is your dive flag?” one shouts back. It’s two guys in a small metal-hulled boat with a massive outboard motor. I unpoke the hook from my finger and shout some non-niceties at them while surface swimming the short distance back to the exit point. On the way, I offer them my extended middle finger as a greeting.
I am a very experienced diver with excellent buoyancy and a cool head underwater. Diving in pleasant conditions like that day is really as easy as taking a walk in the park for me. Having pieces of skin ripped from your limbs in a totally surprising manner was unpleasant, but not panic-inducing for me. It could have ended quite differently for a less experienced diver. Panic is one of the leading causes of scuba fatalities.
When this happened, I was about 25 meters from the entry/exit point of a popular dive site called “The Steps” in the Botany Bay national park in Kurnell. Clearly visible from the sea are steps and rails leading down from the car park to a rock platform next to the ocean, quite obviously an entry site for divers and swimmers. Two more groups of divers were in the water when I got hooked, and so was a snorkeler, without any protective neoprene wetsuit, swimming about 10 meters from my position. To anyone with reasonable eyesight it is very obvious that this is a site with people in the water.
I am all for sharing the ocean, but everybody has to make sure they don’t endanger others. I as a diver can’t enter the water with a giant stride if there are kids swimming below me next to the pier I am standing on. And Mr. fishermoron can’t put his fishing hook into the water where there is a good chance of impaling someone’s skin. Just like you can’t go duck hunting right near the trailhead of a popular hiking trail, and ask “Where’s your reflective vest!?” once you put some buckshot into someone’s shoulder. Dah.
But endangering swimmers and divers is not the only bad which our not-friends the fishermorons do. Their hobby has the potential for doing serious environmental damage. Off the Sydney coast, in Maroubra, we are fortunate to have a colony of endangered grey nurse sharks. When visiting the sharks’ home caves, it’s a frequent but highly unfortunate to see sharks with fishing lines in their mouths. This undoubtedly hurts the prospects of the affected individuals for survival and reproduction. The fishing lines can get infected, and interfere with the sharks’ feeding. How pathetic, to harm endangered animals as a hobby!
Now, why would anybody chose a hobby which is both a hazard to his fellow humans and environmentally harmful?
Is it because people enjoy being outdoors, near the ocean? Not really, I also do enjoy that, but I never had the urge to dangle a pointy hook in the water. There must be more to it.
I think it’s partially a sign of stone-age leftover-mindset. There are still some behaviors hardwired into our brains which tell us that we must go out and fish and hunt, to provide! But, let me tell you, dear fishermorons: it ain’t like that anymore. Even though some mental relics remain in our heads, it’s worth overcoming them. In the stone-age, they did not have toilet paper or electric light, or the internet or newspapers. And we have mentally adapted to all of that. Let’s now mentally adapt to the fact that we don’t need to catch our own protein anymore. And, in the stone-age, certainly nobody had fiberglass fishing rods, metal hooks (stone-age, remember?) and outboard motors. If you want to play paleolithic man, why not go all the way and make your own hooks from animal bones, and dangle them in the water from your dugout. I’d have more respect for that.
Also, you don’t have to be Herr Doktor Freud II to understand that a fishing rod is a phallus-symbol. What does it say about a man who enjoys holding a long stick in front of himself in public for hours? There might not be an awful lot of female volunteering to hold his other rod! But such a fishing rod is a weird phallus-symbol: very thin! If I could give some advice to the marketing departments of fishing rod manufacturers, leave the technology completely as it is, but make the handle thicker, it will give your customers more of the psychological satisfaction they seek.
So, what can a scuba diver do to protect himself from these fishermorons? One of my diving friends, an ex-military man, recommended the use of a Glock 9 mm pistol, which supposedly fires like a charm even after getting wet. The most humorous idea which came to my mind was to attach a few fish on the fishing hooks we divers find dangling in front of our faces; Fish spiked with a strong laxative plus LSD. There is nothing like a night spent shitting your guts out while intensively hallucinating to teach you about the error in your ways.
But in reality, I am a very peaceful person. I wouldn’t want to blow up, shoot or poison anybody. Make love not war! Oh, wait, probably no one wants to get fucked by the fishermorons, hence their aforementioned need to hold a phallus-symbol for hours on end. What can they do? How about they go fuck themselves!
PS: To be taken with a (small!) grain of salt, I do know nice people who fish, though they don’t do it next swimmers, divers or endangered sharks. I honestly do think that fishing causes a lot of environmental and water safety issues.