In a lifetime of hunting and fishing around the world, I have seen incredible atrocities committed against wildlife for the sake of hedonistic pleasure. In Alaska I remember finding 17 black bear carcasses piled up with only select organs removed. This needless slaughter was to fulfill an Asian demand for products purported to enhance the male libido.
Across Africa I have seen elephant carcasses left to rot after poachers removed their ivory. Many rhinos meet the same fate, slaughtered only for their horn. On the water I have watched Japanese, Russian and other foreign commercial fishing operations decimate local fish populations off our very own coast with helicopters, trawlers and factory ships.
In Guatemala my eyes watered as I watched dump trucks being overloaded with yellowfin tuna — all would ultimately end up in the air en route to their final destination across the Pacific. As a sportsman and conservationist, such inhumanity makes me sick.
Now, the Florida Keys are under attack.
The Chinese are behind the ploy. Asian seafood buyers have declared a monopoly on the local lobster trade and pay up to $15.00 or more per pound for every intact live lobster they can get their hands on. The result is that nearly every lobsterman in the Keys is now selling their catch to Asian buyers who are waiting at the dock with specialized transport trucks. The crustaceans are treated like royalty, and flown first class to China the very same day where the live lobster ultimately fetch more than 10 times the price paid.
With this new demand, the increasing number of lobster buoys in some areas across the Keys is downright dangerous. You can forget about running at night.
Additionally, as a local resident or visiting tourist, unless you catch the lobster yourself, enjoying the delicacy is becoming financially out of reach.
Understand, that I am in no way pointing the blame at commercial lobstermen. I believe that commercial fishing in many ways is the heartbeat of America. I know firsthand how hard it is to make a living at sea. My son is a commercial fisherman in North Carolina. He works harder than any man I know, doing his best to carve out a meager living for his family while constantly being choked by flawed rules and regulations.
I’ll also say that I am not a fan of, nor am I afraid of, criticizing the National Marine Fisheries Service. In my opinion, the organization has done a poor job of protecting our fragile fisheries. It has proven to be inefficient and corrupt.
Sadly, it’s often the trillions of dollars we owe foreign governments that influence the legislation behind protecting our very own precious resources. And when it comes to the commercial lobster fishery across the Florida Keys, you can bet Chinese markets have more power than our very own government.
I love America and everything this great country stands for, yet how can we hide in the shadows and allow another fishery to be decimated in front of our very eyes? It will be a happy day for all of us when Chinese witch doctors realize that lionfish is the new Viagra.