When I told my Dad I was going to take “a year off from college” to go chase marlin, he was not pleased. I shook my head at that. I mean, it was his fault.
It’s not that I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to get away from their parents. It was just that he’s the one who raised me fishing.
He was the guy who made me clean most of the fish while letting my brothers off to go swim. When I asked why he said, “Because I think you like fishing more than they do.” I shook my head at that too.
My Dad was one in a group of buddies who founded the POCO Bueno tournament and the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (GCCA). GCCA is now the Coastal Conservation Association. They did a number of things that made a difference. Forty years later, I’d like to think that I’m now just doing the same sort of stuff I was raised around as a kid.
Dad was right about a couple of things though: That “one year off” turned into a lifetime and, I probably would have made more money working on things that required a college degree.
But then I would have never become a “regular” on the Great Barrier Reef during the giant black marlin seasons. Nor would I have left the GBR after each season to join a salty old scalawag named Leo Wooten on Bora Bora, supplying fish to the legendary Bloody Mary’s restaurant.
On The Reef I learned how to catch giant black marlin. This helped Leo and I catch the largest blue marlin of my life. From Leo I learned that storing tools in the oily bilge kept them from rusting, how to win at checkers while he cheated and about the moon.
I learned about Wild Oceans (then National Coalition for Marine Conservation) from Tim Choate while fishing all over the world, and about Pacific commercial fisheries from Paul Nichols, a British fisheries officer at Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) in Honiara. But it wasn’t until Gulf shrimp boats came to Hawaii and repurposed themselves into long liners that I called home and said “Gee, thanks. Now how do I create a Hawaii Conservation Association (HCA)?”
With HCA we passed reef fish legislation in the State Capitol when the requisite State agency would take no administrative action. Armed with experience gained at FFA and from a gig Nichol’s got me with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, I once approached the Western Pacific Council on the subject of long line management.
I learned I could spend the rest of my life beating my head against the wall in there, walked out and swore I’d never return to fishery politics. I shifted to marine science field work, and helped deploy pop up satellite tags across the Pacific.
But I wake up in the middle of the night thinking of fishery issues and during the day I find myself pushing aside work that generates revenue when a marine science project is more interesting – even when it earns me not one single dime.
And yep. It’s all my Dad’s fault. Well, most of it is anyways.
I blame the rest on Tim Choate.
I am Wild Oceans.