Your Custom and Cultural Quaintness Won’t Get You Out of it This Time

DSC_0131Your hatred of seals and sea lions runs deep. Your father was a commercial fisherman, like his father before him. If they taught you anything about fishing, it was that marine mammals are the enemy. They serve no earthly purpose; the only good one is a dead one.

Never mind that seals and sea lions evolved over tens of millions of years to adapt to aquatic habitats, eventually becoming nature’s perfect fishers; that species of fish and other sea life evolved in harmony with pinnipeds and so were able to withstand their level of predation; or that the reasons salmon are more scarce than they were for your grand-pappy are all because of human activity—including commercial fishing.

That so-called “evolution” stuff is just some big lie made up by “scientists” who don’t know shit from Shinola and probably work for that other arch-enemy: the federal government. (Forget that the government has practically handed you a living since they granted your ancestors their first commercial fishing license.)

Your bible tells you the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that your god loves you better than he does any damn seal or sea lions. Anything you think you have to do to feed your family is forgivable in the eyes of the lord. Studying nature, any further than learning where the schools of fish are likely to be on a given day, is heresy.

Your sense of entitlement is trumped only by your all-consuming hatred of seals and sea lions. So what if they look cute and comical hauled out on beaches or docks in the marina, those beaches and docks belong to you, not them! So do the fish they steal from you and the nets they mess up when they get entangled in them.

So you bring your rifle along whenever you’re out at sea. Shooting them, as your daddy did before you, is the one thing that makes you feel better. It feels good when you see your bullet find its mark and tear into their flesh. It’s not legal anymore, but no one’s watching or does anything about it. You’d have to be pretty obvious to get into any trouble.

Who cares that most of them don’t die outright, but instead suffer slowly with of lead poisoning or infection. Most of them sink to the bottom eventually—out of sight, out of mind.

Sometimes they wash up on your beach or haul out to give birth. It really burns you when people appreciate them and try to protect them with signs warning drivers to watch out for them.

Last week a pregnant seal hauled out and people gushed while she brought yet another seal into the world. If there’s one thing there are too many of, it’s seals and sea lions. God will back you up on that. Do-gooders waited and watched over her, placing signs around her to warn motorists.

It shouldn’t have been an issue, since the upland dunes are off-limits to driving, but your hatred of seals and sea lions blinds you to rules and regulations. The do-gooders were around all day and into the evening, so you wait until the early-morning tide, when no one will witness.

You’ve watched the seal from a distance and know just where to find her as you drive your big, jacked-up four-by-four a mile north of the Ocean Park beach approach. This is your home turf and you know exactly where to go. You find the seal and her pup just where you saw them the day before, in the upland dune grass, where the feds say you shouldn’t drive because some nesting birds take precedence over your fun.

The signs on either side of the seals are visible before the animals are, and you use them to help you zero in on your target. Shooting them would be easier, but the noise might attract attention, so you do the next best thing—you run right over the mother seal, severing her tail.

Checking on your handy work, you see that she’s bleeding badly and will no doubt die

A mother harbor seal, who had recently given birth, was found dead on the beach north of the Ocean Park beach approach last week, thought to have been a victim of an intentional vehicular killing.  Photo by SUZY WHITTEY / Chinook Observer

A mother harbor seal, who had recently given birth, was found dead on the beach north of the Ocean Park beach approach last week, thought to have been a victim of an intentional vehicular killing.
Photo by SUZY WHITTEY / Chinook Observer

from her wounds. The pup, on the other hand, is unharmed, but bleating noisily. Someone will probably nurse it back to health if they find it there, so you stuff the newborn pup in a sack, throw it in the back of the truck and bring it to your property in the woods.

What you do with the pup there, people can only speculate. It might come out later in your trial. You were sloppy this time; you left tire tracks where people don’t normally drive. It’s not like no one knows you or ever sees you driving the beach there.

You shocked a lot of people and a lot of folks are angry. People may like to celebrate fishermen, but your feeble rationalizations and your custom and cultural quaintness won’t get you out of it this time.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

16 thoughts on “Your Custom and Cultural Quaintness Won’t Get You Out of it This Time

  1. I am not a vegetarian, but it is ridiculous to blame seals and sea lions for the decline of fish populations. The real causes of fish populations declining is pollution, over fishing, global warming, dams, and other such serious environmental problems.

    If commercial and sport fishermen and women really want take to the right action for fish populations to rebound, they should stop blaming seals and sea lions, and work with environmentalist organizations like the National Wildlife Federation, Save Our Seas Foundation, and other such organizations.

  2. It used to be that fishermen were given a pass compared to hunters. That was in large part due to the inexpressive nature of fish and the arrogant viewpoint (still loudly proclaimed in angling circles today) that fish are too primitive to be conscious and able to experience pain or to suffer. A sizeable amount of scientific data published over the last two decades now shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that opinion to be false. Many fish species show remarkable behavioral sophistication in the wild, a few even use tools, and laboratory experiments convincingly demonstrate that fish can experience pain and fear. Sensitive observers of the natural world had always suspected as much but now we have SCIENCE verifying it. Ignorance or brazen denial of the capacity of fish to suffer is no longer a valid excuse for continuing to abuse them, anymore than claimed ignorance of the law gets one acquitted of breaking it. Even when we ignore the incalculable amount of collateral damage and waste created by commercial fishing, so-called “bycatch”, the inescapable conclusion is that fishermen are just another category of exploitative scumbags, cut from the same vile cloth as market and sport hunters, busily promoting mayhem and suffering in the natural world.

    • Thanks for the great comment. Here’s another satisfying comment I received on Facebook: “Our diet is mostly vegetarian but we did eat fish. Now that we’re aware of the violence committed by commercial fishermen, it will be strictly vegetarian from now on… Will never spend another dime which could benefit such a cruel lowlife.”

    • I read the research also. But should we have needed it? Can’t anyone seeing a fish trying to escape the hook or struggling when out of water realize that it is suffering? Geez Louise! My guess is that the research won’t change many minds. As long as people aren’t on the receiving end of the hard time, it doesn’t seem to matter. The hominids who led to us should have gotten in the way of a rhino stampede.

  3. That whole incident made me ill. l hope they catch this despicable thug and give him a huge fine and jail time. Then there are the abalone takers who shoot sea otters. Years of scuba diving taught me that the oceans and it’s denizens are beyond incredible and so finely tuned in shape, patterns, and behavior, it is mind blowing. And fish actually have distinctive personalities, as do octopus.
    So the desecration of the oceans is particularly disturbing to me. I only eat wild salmon once in a while, but now I see that should be off limits also…..maybe just farmed tillapia….

  4. Whoever killed that poor seal is of the same mindset as the hunters who brag about their gut-shot wolves or their speared bears or their trapped coyotes. He is like the people here who ran down three of the swans in a local park and bludgeoned the remaining three. All are sadistic and senseless slaughters. The people involved are the worst our species has to offer and the earth would be better off without them.

    Unfortunately, those capable of the total disregard for animal life and suffering often point to religious reasons, such as the biblical myth of dominion and the assertion that humans are made in the image of God, as justification. The result is the arrogance of human supremacy, the ignorance of creationism, the greed that views the planet and all nonhuman lives as mere resources to be used at will, and the view of gross animal cruelty as a minor issue. Others refer to the history of animal abuse as a part of culture, and that somehow that is supposed to make the tradition acceptable and worthy of preservation.

    An increasing problem for animal advocates is the use of religion and culture as an excuse for abusing animals and causing them untold suffering for any human use, no matter how frivolous. Criticisms of religious-based abuse, such as ritual types of slaughter, or condemnation of cultural-based abuses, such as cutting a living and conscious pig in half to ensure good luck for a village, will likely be called racist and xenophobic.

    Animal advocates need to call out all cruelty, whether running over a seal, killing a bull in the ring, chasing a fox with hounds, slitting throats in religious ritual, or murdering swans in their park home. The acts themselves are brutal and that is the point and all that matters. Where the cruelties take place, how long they have been occurring, the history that justifies them, and who commits the deeds should not be the issue or the excuse.

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