The Fish Story

China’s Exotic Traditions Mauling Rare Wildlife; Holgate Eroding Into the Sunset

By JAY MANN | Oct 09, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Paul Kapral of Tennessee fishing with his daughter Janet on the beach in Barnegat Light.

SHARK FIN SOUP STILL MENUED: The latest report card on efforts to quell the shark-finning crisis indicates minimal gains in stopping the slurping madness. By the critical reckoning of shark savers, not to mention the sharks themselves, the shark-mauling madness carries on at a full boil.

The lack of Asian cooperation is at the meat of the matter. There is virtually no Far Eastern cooperation to de-menu soups made from the fins of overfished Chondrichthyes. In fact, by most estimates, the market for shark fin soup has never been hotter. It seems as if that part of the world drools over rare and endangered taste-tempters. It’s eat ’em up, yum-yum.

I’m not implying that too many Asians just don’t care … I’m announcing it outright. Their simple dining pleasures readily trump the planetary need to save marine biosystems. Asian schools of thought are dumb to the fact that no form of marine life is more vital to an ocean’s bio-balance than sharks – which remove old, wounded or sickly sea creatures, lessening the chance of diseases ravaging the entire system.

I blame Asian traditions and taste buds more than the criminal commercial fishermen who grab irresistibly big bucks gleaned from illegal shark mutilating. Sure, these fishermen face an arrest risk, which most often ends in hand-slaps for the captains of shark-finning boats. A garbage scow-grade commercial boat is confiscated after being caught with a multi-ton haul of shark fins. The boat had already made millions atop millions in shark fin profits. In this case, the meat of the matter is in the math: Profit-to-risk ratio is downright appetizing.

Admittedly, there is some world-class shark-finning backlash. The highly diligent European Union is hot on the case. It has placed frequent-offender Taiwan on its “watch list” due to that nation’s insufficient cooperation in combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The Taiwanese fishing realm has already been issued a “yellow card” by the EU, quite soccer-like. What’s more, EU inspectors make biannual visits to Taiwan, most recently this past week. Based on what the EU authorities find during their visit, the yellow card can be lifted, or, just as likely, Taiwan could be given a “red card,” possibly held up with conviction by one of the EU inspectors – who must then run away with a pack of fishermen chasing him. It’s a soccer thing. A red card rating would ban the import of Taiwanese seafood products into EU nations, at an annual $233 million loss for Taiwan.

OTHER UGLY TASTES: An ugly, land-based parallel to shark finning is the despicable slaughtering of rhinos solely for their horns. Then there’s the latest wave of elephant slaughtering for some thought-magical juices squeezed from a couple small internal body parts. Like shark fins, the horns and elephant juices are bound for Asia, first-class, where the demand remains in the strange-brew stratosphere.

I should morbidly note that, unlike shark-fin rustlers, getting nabbed for rhino or elephant poaching is to die for … instantly. In recent years, untold numbers of peasant poachers in Africa have been shot dead by specially trained police teams, often consisting of paramilitary/mercenary forces common to that continent. Bitterly ironic is how anti-poaching forces often use high-powered rifles popular with big-game hunters – shades of Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game.

Being a humanitarian at heart, I feel for the targeted African poachers, most of whom are so piss-poor that one successful poach is a lifesaver – and one failed poach is a family ender. What’s more, those Dark Continent poachers are also stalked by more than a human militia. This past July, a CNN headline read, “Lions kill suspected rhino poachers who sneaked onto South African game reserve.”

CNN’s David Williams wrote, “Suspected poachers sneaked onto a South African game reserve to hunt rhinos, but a pride of lions found them instead. … The remains were strewn over an area covered with thick brush. … It was impossible to know how many people were killed.”

Holding to a solid theme, I’ll again aim blame at Asian middlemen and tons of everyday customers who vicariously finance this deadly human and wildlife mayhem. The impacts from their quirkier customs and traditional medicines have gone global … and not in a healing sense.

It’s sophomoric to point out that removing demand instantly kills the market. Now, there’s a worthy target: death to senseless demand.

GOING, GOING …: The washover erosion at the northern part of the Holgate refuge area is worse than ever – worse than, say, last month. It’s happening all that fast. The ocean and bay now hold meet-and-greets during little more than astronomically high tides. They shook watery hands just last week.

I’ll re-repeat that this is totally unique erosion, like nothing seen there dating back to Capt. Mey and his famous cape. What’s more, this erosion looks to be in it for the long eat-away haul. I’ll unguardedly predict the Holgate washover zone is destined to see ocean/bay hookups with every high tide, not just astronomically high tides or storm-driven sea surge. It will not amount to inlet-like breaks in the Island’s south end, just an overwash expanse akin to sandy tidal wetlands. During high tides it will surely curtail buggy or pedestrian crossings. Such a restricted usage will make certain folks happy as shore birds – most others, not so much.

Heading southward and outward, the far-south portion of the Holgate refuge is seeing the other end of the erosion spectrum, namely, a wide swatch accruing sand by the dune-full. It is amassing sand as it likely did eons ago, when one-time Tucker’s Island first formed. At least that’s my theory on creation. There is currently no wider east/west point on LBI than thereabouts. The same area is also rising to greet the future, via mounting dunes over three stories high.

There’s one other add-on condition in play. The farthermost south end, toward Beach Haven Inlet, is snaking southward. Yep, the Island is lengthening. I now get a 3-mile odometer measurement from the Holgate parking lot to the south end’s west peninsula. That means LBI is 21 miles long. Don’t balk at that. Instead, use “Google Earth” to get a scale read on the Island’s end-to-end measurements, keeping in mind that some of those satellite maps are already a couple years old, meaning the Holgate erosion and build-up are easily outpacing them.

RUNDOWN: I sure wouldn’t call last weekend the greatest of weekends on the Saffir/Sunshine Scale. Big waves from distant disturbances, along with a very aggravating windblown mist, made for damp fishing sessions, though I saw a goodly number of boat anglers working the bay, south-end area.

Surfcasting has assumed the look and feel of overcast fall angling. There’s just one key component missing. I’ll let you flap around guessing at that. It is slow, though I did hear of what would have been a Classic-worthy striper taken on the north end by someone not participating in the 2018 LBI Surf Casting Classic. It wasn’t a huge bass … but coulda/shoulda/woulda been worth a tidy tourney sum, still. Don’t let that unsigned bass-holding soul be you.

There are now over 470 competitors in the LBI Surf Fishing Classic. That’s dang decent – but more are needed to keep the long-lived event comfortably rolling onward. I’ll re-remind that just the sign-up perks are worth the $30 admission fee. If, like me, you’re a lollygagger, stop being same. Sign up ASAP and be counted.

As is typical after an open season closes on a prime species, some very nice fluke are being caught, mainly on mullet baits.

Speaking of mullet, it is one of the better migration years in many a blue moon. Disguising that push of baitfish has been a steadily fired-up oceanfront. Only the Island’s inlet areas have allowed for throwing net on them.

Saluting any mullet thrown out on hook are bluefish … out the proverbial wazoo. They have been running in the sub-cocktail/tailor size range, though they are larger than micro snappers.

The whole bluefish size/name thing is sorta complicated. A bluefish terminology thread at suggested: “Snappers are from several inches to half a pound. Cocktails are up to two pounds. Tailors are between two and five pounds. Racers are seven pounds or more and arrive first in our waters in early spring and are hungry and fast. Slammers or Alligators are in excess of ten pounds.”

That somewhat clarified, larger blues also go by gators, gorillas and choppers.

I’m hesitant to use that “racer” term since it’s too close to “runner,” a name reserved for an unrelated species, the blue runner, which does resemble a bluefish. Interestingly, the bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) is the only member of the Pomatomidae family – having long ago eaten all other members. Bluefish are known as tailors in Australia, elfs in South Africa and shad in Natal. Other common names are blue, chopper and anchoa, per Wiki.

By the by, a name I’ve heard used for a size between snapper and cocktail is tinker. It’s never well-received when I bandy it about, showing the sensitivity to the whole bluefish nickname thing.

RE-SEES: On a nature note, actually more of a re-note, I got word of further spottings of the local brown shark plying the Rip waters, seemingly hot on the tails of balled-up mullet. The latest surface showing came Saturday, toward the west end of the Rip area. As in prior spottings, the shark was readily showing a load of dorsal fin above water. I was asked if there’s any chance it might also be going after the tons of diving shore birds hitting the water’s surface. Nah. It didn’t look all that aggro.

Onward to things of a terra firma nature. A few years back, I had glanced the largest coyote I had ever seen, speed-crossing the former Tuckerton Railroad right-of-way, Eagleswood area. I soon got word of similar sightings thereabouts, east of Route 9.

I had written, after research, that it was very likely a coywolf – a coyote/wolf combo that can reach German shepherd size. A documented population of these hefty hybrids has been draining our way from Canada, likely via New York State’s wilderness areas.

After that first rush of coywolf sightings, things went quiet … until last week. Norm C. and a buddy saw either the same huge coyote or its spittin’ image in the same Eagleswood area, though west of Route 9 in this instance.

Pondering coywolves among us, I get hung up on the sustenance angle. A canine of that size would need many a meal, far more than a diet of rabbits and backyard cats could supply. Logic dictates that roadkill, especially deer, could fully fill the bill. In fact, our area of Route 9 might hold state honors for annual deer strikes. Why, then, are there virtually no coyote sightings around such roadside carcasses? Simple: Coyotes and wolves are masters of furtiveness, able to remain highly unseen. They can make foxes look like klutzes.

Might coywolves use the cover of night – and a dread-laced avoidance of headlights – to covertly drag roadkill back into the underbrush? They’re easily that clever.

I know hunters allege it’s coyote pack-killing of healthy deer that supplies the meat. That’s nonsense. Firstly, coyotes travel solo or in pairs. Deer rundowns demand too much energy output, while roadkill tends to be infinitely slower – and less inclined to administer a fatal kick to a coyote’s cranium.

Yes, fawns are very vulnerable to coyote predation. That said, if the fawn take by coyotes is as ruinous as hunters claim, why are deer at a historic high in overall numbers? Last year’s N.J. deer hunts took down 48,545 white tails.

What gets me is how hunters blame an indigenous predator for harming their hunting when buildout by nonindigenous humans is the greatest killer of hunting known to man.

Speaking of mankind impacts, well over 10,000 deer get killed on roadways, thus my guess that roadkill sustenance nourishes coyotes and coywolves far more than live takedowns.

Anyway, I’m now hellbent on setting up trail cams in the local coywolf zone. I might need to, let’s say, spice up the area. If you see me hauling a disgustingly dead deer down the road … I’m not serious! I’ll simply place the cameras where a dead deer has already bitten the dust. Check on my photo-progress at

CORRECTION: Last week, I highly erroneously, i.e. absentmindedly, wrote that the nearly extinct vaquita porpoises live in the Gulf of Mexico. Not! I knew full well that they solely inhabit the northern section of the Gulf of California. Therefore, any vaquita porpoises that read my column and have begun packing for the long trip to the Gulf of Mexico ... stay put – and make sure to call and cancel those Panama Canal passage permits.

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