Monday, May 18, 2009

In Which I Want To Go To There (But I'd Like To Not Die)

Thanks to Jeremy Wade (extreme angler and Biologist) and Animal Planet's show 'River Monsters', I've gained a new appreciation for freshwater fishies of the deep. I've always had a fascination with fishing, even as a child, when my understanding of it was to stand over a pier, throw a line into the brackwish water and then peer over the end of it, wondering why nothing ever came up.

Since then, my odd obsession with fishing and animals that swim hasn't waned, even if I've never quite caught up in experience. My snorkeling experience has been limited to the muddy waters of Cabo San Lucas, and as for fishing? I wouldn't know where to start. But I've come a long way to appreciating these creatures, and it manifests itself the most when I work with my fish tank. It's just a twenty gallon bitty little thing, fresh water and easy to maintain, with some tetras, some guppies, three frogs and two underwater catfish that grow bigger every day, but even within this little community, there has been massacres and adventures. I've mourned the loss of Tubby, the injured little Molly who fought his way back to health after an attack of another male molly, losing a fin and disorienting himself so much he swam upside down and in circles. I nearly cried when I lost my first frogs Max & Mona, bitty little aquatic dwarfs who died of old age after nearly three years of sitting on their lily pads and poking through gravel for their morsels of food. I marveled when a half inch ghost shrimp grew into a nearly three inch large monster with claws, who took over the tank and nearly singlehandedly annihalted a school of neon tetras (yeah, mister fish expert at the fish store, apparently shrimp ARE aggressive in high temperatures. FYI).

The new show 'River Monsters' on Animal Planet has done little to wane my curiosity with the animals of the aquatic. And it's also made me completely terrified and fascinated with the Amazon. I've learned so many different things from this show, but none more than the absolute fact that anyone who wants to swim in the Amazon river is crazy. Did you know that there are fishes there that can bore bullet size holes in you and eat you from the inside out? Or that some catfish can grow up to ten feet and have been known to attack and kill humans? Or that piranha's have consumed children in seconds? Or that bullsharks can adapt to freshwater and are now popping up in rivers all over the world?

Or how about this fun fact? There's apparently a case in the Amazon where a fish has actually been attracted by a urine streem and swam UP the uretha of a peeing man and BURIED itself in his penis. Oh yeah. Don't pee in the lake, boys.

Who in their right mind wants to know this? And still wants to go fish these things? Let's face it, host Jeremy Wade is CRAZY. But he's the fascinating kind of crazy - the kind of biologist who will venture to the ends of the earth to do battle with a 200 pound fish with only a fishing line between them, to emerge the exhausted winner, who does not kill his prize, but instead admires it, notes it, and with a display of sportmanship to his beastly shrewd battle losers, allows them to rest before setting them back free. It's this moment that I admire the most. It's for this reason that this latest article about the controversy involving a fisherman who caught and killed a record size Hammerhead Shark (pregnant with about 50 babies) saddens me. To want to battle against this magnificant animals and emerge the winner is within our competitive spirit. But to become so overwhelmed with excitement over the prize to bring such a specimen and kill it for pure sport? What's the point in that?

It reminds me of the moment not long ago where I came face to face with a falcon in my yard. My emotions were fueled by excitement and reverance.

I did not immediately think, "Oh my goodness. What a beautiful creature! Let me kill it!"

I'm just saying.

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