In a candid and heartbreaking account of his experiences as a fisher, The Getaway Plan and ECCA VANDAL drummer Dan Maio has described the guilt he now feels for participating in the cruel activity.
In a Facebook post, which was shared by prominent Australian animal rights activist James Aspey, Maio describes the reality behind catch-and-release fishing, and what it really means for fish.
“I used to trick animals onto sharpened hooks”, he begins, going on to explain that the mouth, face, and even eyes of fish were cut.
“I didn’t do it to eat”, he recalls, “Like millions of others, I did it for ‘fun'”.
Many people believe that catch-and-release fishing – in which fish are thrown back into the water after being hooked and dragged out – is somehow “humane”. Maio used to be one of them. “I guess that made us all feel better”, he says.
After the Facebook post went viral, Maio penned an op-ed, further highlighting his reasons for giving up fishing:
“If I had done these things to a dog or a cat, people would want me in jail. But here I am, talking about fish. “Fish have no pain receptors”, they say. “Don’t worry, they’re too stupid to understand.”
I believed it all, especially since it came from the mouths of family members and friends”.
The heartbreaking article continues:
“The fish on the end of my line would try unsuccessfully to swim for their lives as I dragged them in. Suffocating and terrified, they would thrash about while I took my time removing hooks (sometimes even standing on the fish to keep them still), organising other lines and finding my camera for that all-important photo.
I did this for 10 years, until one day in Perth, I held in my hands one of the prettiest fish I’d ever seen. He was scared and oxygen-deprived, and I’d torn almost his entire bottom lip right the way around. Fish don’t have arms or legs to help them get by. All they have is their lips and mouths to gather food, build nests, and protect their young. Damaging these parts of their body can be fatal, even if they are swiftly released.
I had the sudden realisation that I had ruined this fish’s life. The one I’m holding in this photo is (and will always be) the last fish I ever caught. I was an arsehole. I’m sorry but, at the same time, forever grateful that he helped me flick the switch.”
“It should have been obvious to me from the struggle and panic I had witnessed time and time again that fish feel pain, just like all animals do. I’ve since learnt that they are actually quite intelligent. They can recognise each other, communicate, and grieve the loss of their companions. Some can even use objects as tools, and others make art in the sand to attract mates.”
“I’ve always loved the ocean and my fascination and love for its inhabitants has grown tenfold since I stopped treating them like disposable playthings”, he says. “Replacing fishing with snorkelling has been a wonderful change in my life. To swim with and beside sea life is an experience many times better than fishing ever was.”
Speaking of the fish he is pictured holding, he says, “It breaks my heart that I used to be involved. This beautiful animal flicked a switch for me”.
Read the full op-ed here.