Reel Big Fish – Or Else!

“You’re gonna go to the record store, you’re gonna give ’em all your money, radio plays what they want you to hear, they tell me it’s cool, I just don’t believe it” – Reel Big Fish, Sell Out

In a rather unfortunate story, a fisherman from New Bedford, MA, errantly caught an 881 pound tuna and was forced to surrender it to the feds. I’m not sure exactly why the federal agency in charge was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but apparently they run the show.

The fish was apparently caught in the fisherman’s net as it was pulled to the surface. He was not intending to catch a tuna, but catch it he did. The fish was already dead, having been dragged for a while. So, Carlos Raphael, the boat’s owner (who has a permit for catching tuna) reported the catch and headed for shore to make bank.

And make bank he would have. An 881 pound tuna is a very valuable thing. In January a 754 pound tuna sold for $396,000 in Japan. Unfortunately for Mr. Raphael, the catch was illegal, and the precious cargo was confiscated. The crime? He hadn’t used a rod and reel.

The incident serves as an interesting thought experiment.

I recognize the pragmatic need to manage the ocean stocks, and the ability of nation states to form treaties with one another to do just that. It’s not like NOAA was out there patrolling the waters and checking nets. Certainly it’s not unreasonable for a government to apply regulations about the manner in which fish are caught that are sold in their markets.

I further recognize that the rules must be enforced as written. It’s no good for an offsides defensive lineman to claim “but I wasn’t trying to gain an advantage, and only jumped for a moment before I got back.” Even if he didn’t mean to violate the neutral zone, the refs have to call it. Otherwise, the defense would press and press to break the rules just a little more and a little more.

That said, the message to Raphael is clear. If you catch a big tuna again, don’t report it. Sneak it onshore. Or, better yet, carry a rod & reel with you at all times and claim that you used it to catch the fish. If moral convictions won’t let you get away with this, then just cut it up and cook it right there in international waters. Have a big ole cookout on the deck and chuck the rest back into the sea. No cookware and no will to lie? – then chuck the whole dead fish back into the water. That way, they won’t start an investigation into the incident (I kid you not).

I suppose it happens, but it’s not a good thing when the most logical and rational response to the law is to violate it. When expressly following the rules is the most likely choice to lead to trouble and possible loss, then the rules and the enforcement thereof need to be reworked.

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