Mako incident unleashes the power of social media


By Bostik Gone Fishin presenter and Building Today columnist Graeme Sinclair


I recently received a reminder of the power of social media — in particular, several Facebook posts referencing a recent Bostik Gone Fishin episode that resulted in a mako shark being killed.

I decided many years ago not to kill another mako. I think they are magnificent, but other anglers make different choices.

We had an American angler on board who was exploring the places made famous by novelist/angler Zane Grey in the 1920s.

Mr Grey was invited here by the New Zealand Government who wished to explore the tourism potential surrounding salt and fresh water fisheries. His expeditions were filmed and a very famous book was published.

Tales of the Anglers Eldorado New Zealand focused on the game fishing out of the Bay of Islands and the fresh water action to be found in rivers such as the Tongariro.

There was no thought of catch and release in those days — everything wound up hanging on a hook, pictures were taken and most of the fish dumped.

The idea of killing everything became the norm, and there are pages of old photos in homes everywhere showing boat loads of fish, such as snapper, destined for the smokehouse or to be shared around the neighbourhood.

I like to think that we have made great progress, and now have a clear understanding that fisheries need effective management and sustainable extraction.

Appropriately set quotas for commercial and sensible recreational limits can combine to produce relative abundance. Communicating accurate information to people and effective consultation of changes to fisheries is vital.

My hope is that commercial, recreational and customary fishers, and environmental groups, improve their relationship and engage in conversation. Get around the table and debate, discuss, and learn to compromise.

Our ability to communicate ideas and discuss fisheries policy has been enhanced by social media, and anything contentious generates immediate and sometimes very passionate feedback.

Social media provides a platform for everyone to have their say, which is great. But sifting through the raw emotion and anger can be challenging, which is not so great.

Zane Grey had no social media to contend with. His lack of regard for the future of the fishery reflected public opinion in the 1920s. The resource was thought to be endless. No limits, slaughter what you catch!

I started game fishing when clubs were promoting tag and release for big fish. Marlin were required to be over 90kg before being recognised in competitions (incidentally, a 90kg striped marlin is about three years old).

At least 80% of marlin were released. They were encouraging statistics.

In those days very few trailer boats chased big fish. Now, a great many of us love the thrill of hauling massive fish to the side of a small boat.

Each year we (the Sinclairs) take at least one marlin for smoking. Ninety kilos of fish generates a rather significant amount of smoked product, and this gets shared around several families. By far the greater percentage of sharks and billfish are released.

Now, Daniel Zirilli the American angler, arrives in New Zealand to explore some of Zane Grey’s old haunts. My son James and I took him out of Whangaroa Harbour for a kingfish.

We kept one, and the angler ate seared kingfish for dinner that very evening. We still have some.

Next day the team filmed out in the Bay of Islands. We chartered the Alma G, the same vessel that Zane Grey chartered in 1926. She is magnificent but the fishing was tough.

That said, it was fantastic to go through the Hole in the Rock and explore the bay in this wonderful craft.

James took Daniel out in the Surtees for another spin the day after. James was off to dive on the wreck of the Canterbury, but along the way a poor old mako crossed their path.

When you read Tales of the Anglers Eldorado New Zealand, one fish that Zane Grey prizes greatly is the mako shark.

Zane Grey wrote: “Here was a sea creature, an engine of destruction, developed to the nth degree. I had never seen its like. Even an orca could not do any more ravaging among sea fish. Every line of this mako showed speed and power to a remarkable degree.”

Daniel desperately wanted to catch that mako. It was his dream fish and, he decided, was a wonderful climax to his New Zealand visit. Zane Grey had sown the seed in 1926!

James actually tried to get him to release it, but to no avail.

The fish was caught, killed, weighed, smoked and the head is with a taxidermist. Nothing was wasted!

When that story went to air, social media had me thinking that another “Cecil the Lion” incident had just occurred. The negative feedback on that poor mako was incredible.

So, I am interested in your feedback on all this.

No one comments negatively on a snapper, blue cod or kingfish, but that shark generated an outpouring of emotion. Such is the power of social media!

The thing I like about such reactions is that it keeps me continually evaluating my position.

Effective fisheries management which embraces appropriate environmental practices is all about compromise.

It requires us all having a conversation, preferably without a lynch mob knocking at the door!

Am I being too sensitive? Let me hear your thoughts via Building Today. Email and editor Andrew Darlington will pass on your feedback so that I might respond in a future issue of Building Today.

Tight Lines!

Previous articleWhat is KiwiBuild?
Next articleWhen tradie banter goes too far