There be giants… and Man likes ’em better dead


In keeping with the L-A-R-G-E swimmers (which are not limited to salties) theme of the latest posts, here’s some fantastical stuff about big fishes. While looking up bluefin info for this post, I cane across several fascinating articles about very large fishes.

Just this very month, a 20 year old kid caught the largest male mako shark on record:

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A Scituate man reeled in a 624-pound mako shark Thursday, possibly breaking the record for the biggest male mako ever caught, a biologist said….

… the 10-foot fish is the largest male mako shark ever to be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, and appears to be the largest male ever caught.

“We didn’t think they got this big, basically,” ….

“When I saw the shark, I said, ‘That would be a dream to catch,’” Sears recounted.

shark082809It’s fantastic to know that there are still such magnificent specimens in our collapsing ocean ecologies. That science is getting new information and we learn a bit more about these little-understood sharks, but does it warrant turning the mako into fish steaks?

What is it with anglers and hunters that beautiful large living things must be possessed, conquered, preferably life snuffed out. Why the impulse to kill and destroy wonders of nature? All that matters is the self-serving dream of boasting of killing something large, something rare. (I remember news a few years about a regal giant moose with magnificent antlers in some US national park who was well-loved by visitors and park rangers; he was found dead and they found his killer because his antlers were on display in the  teenager’s backyard, a teenager who wanted to own the biggest antlers around.)

Or staking a claim in some way.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, placid plankton mowers quite apart from the frenzied killing machine image JAWS evoke.

WhaleShark1They have the largest fins of all sharks by sheer size. Inevitably, they are also coveted for that accursed Chinese dish, sharks’ fin soup. I believe their fins are known as one of the highest grade fins, tian jiu chi (fins of 9 heavens). But again, very very little is known about the whale shark itself. No one knows their reproduction cycle and young sharks smaller than 4m are impossible to sight. So the discovery of a baby shark just 15inches in length (pictured) earlier this year caused much excitement.

The sad thing about this baby’s discovery is that it was tied to a stick in the water, like a leashed dog. A hawker was apparently trying to sell it.

WhaleShark2Now that it has been rescued, let’s hope it grows up to its full potential of 9 to 14 metres and live out its natural lifespan of 60 to 100 years.

WhaleShark9I hope it doesn’t end up as fish steaks like some of its kind did, whether due to fishing net entanglement, shipping lane accidents or hunting. I certainly hope it doesn’t become an exhibit like Sammy either.

While it is the ocean giants that mesmerises, the muddy depths of freshwater rivers do plump a surprise or 3. Well-known are the Mekong’s giant catfish, Chinese sturgeon (thought to be a source of the dragon mythology), the Amazon’s Arapaimas or Pirarucu. Less well-know, and only recently certified as legitimate are giant freshwater stingrays. GiantStingray

In the world of giant swimmers, perhaps the most well-known is Wally the humphead wrasse. Or one fish named Wally did. There are multiple Wallies in the reef.  He resides in the Great Barrier Reef, an ambassador resident after being rescued from a one-way trip to a cooking pot in Hong Kong. However it is not clear whether the stay of execution is permanent or what happens should he be somehow nabbed legally by some enterprising fisherman.

Sadly, wherever they and however big they grow, megafish all face the same threats: overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, climate change. In a word, Man.

The burning question: Who gave all the covetous hunters, anglers, and gourmets of the world the right to terminate these wonders of nature for their own selfish wants and deprive the rest of the world?

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