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good fascinating article that highlights some of the benefits of the pole.
Historical background, drawn from personal experience: pole-and-line fishing was an established commercial means of catching all species of tuna in the eastern Pacific off the coasts of California, Central America and Peru until at least the mid-1950s. I worked in that fishery as a boy in 1952-53.
Boats in the fishery were specifically designed for the purpose and known on the coast as “bait boats.” Most were home-ported in San Pedro and San Diego after WWII. Some moved south to Punta Arenas, Costa Rica, and to Paita, Peru. The lead fishermen and skippers were mostly Italian and Portuguese, mainly from the Azores. Why? The same technique of pole-and-line fishing was used for tuna off southern Italy and the Azores, probably into the 1960s and perhaps later – at least from the Azores. I saw an open motor boat with pole-and-line fishermen at work about 25 nautical miles west of São Miguel in 1986.
The purpose-built boats in the U.S. fishery were called bait boats because they carried live bait – mostly schooling fish like anchovies and sardines – in live tanks built above their low sterns. We caught baitfish in purse seines inshore, net-bailed them into the live tanks, where circulating seawater kept them alive while we headed offshore. Anyone who has gone to sea will recognize that the configuration of bait boats gave them a very high center of gravity with a potential for a free surface effect above the center of displacement. I remember stories of founderings from the San Pedro fleet.
The bait boat technique was based on the live bait, used as chum to slow or stop a school of tuna tearing through the water at speed long enough to get fishermen over the side into galvanized steel racks at the stern. The tuna clipper – for so they were known – stopped and drifted with the school.
We fished the upper level of a school with single bamboo poles about 12′ long, rigged with a single 1/4″ (I believe) tarred marline line about 8′ long. Our lures were handmade by binding rabbit skin and white feathers onto barbless hooks with lead bodies on their shafts. We lashed those hooks hard into the tuna flashing by in the sea that was alternately below our feet and up to our waists. If we held a school of yellowfin, for example, long enough, bigger fish came to the surface to feed on the live bait that a bait master flung over our heads constantly to keep the school in place as the boat drifted. When the fish caught approached a weight of about 80-100 pounds, we shifted to two poles, each with a single marline led to a swivel which held a single stainless steel leader to a single lure. Two fishermen worked the two pole rig together as a synchronized team. Fishermen of the time distinguished tuna by size, thus: single-pole, two-pole tuna and even, although not often, three-pole tuna.
Frankly, it was glorious work!
You sir are legend. I’ve seen photos on the walls in Newport and Avalon dives. I’ve experienced this style once where the tuna would bite anything dropped over the side. I never thought I’d ever have to say “Too much tuna” but it became work and no longer fun after heaving them over the side for 20 minutes.
Wow! You have really lived Joe! I would love to go do some fishing like that! Hoping to go on my first 3/4 day or full day in San Diego soon.
Thanks for a fascinating article that highlights some of the benefits of pole & line fishing. Another important aspect of these fisheries that is sometimes overlooked is the social benefits. For instance these types of fisheries are labour rich when compared to large-scale industrial operations, meaning more people are employed per ton of fish than for any other gear type catching tuna. Businesses are usually locally owned and provide much needed GDP to the coastal communities. This local ownership also means that local businesses are supported instead of sending these economic benefits offshore. Many of these fisheries are also culturally very important as it is a way of life that dates back hundreds of years.
The increased fuel consumption of these fisheries is also not a proven fact. IPNLF recently commissioned a study to quantify fuel use in the Maldivian pole-and-line tuna fishery and the findings were published in a peer-reviewed scientific paper. According to the study the Fuel use intensity (FUI) of the Maldivian fishery was about 40% of the average FUI for global fishing fleets and slightly lower than data previously reported for purse-seine-caught tuna (http://ipnlf.org/news/greener-than-green-fuel-use-efficiency-in-pole-and-line-tuna).
Another important aspect is that pole and line fishing ticks many of the boxes of the Global Development Goals (GDPs), the framework that recognizes that fundamental changes in the way societies consume and produce are indispensable for achieving global sustainable development. In a recent study PwC found that SDG awareness amongst the business community is high (92%) compared to the general population (33% of citizens aware of SDGs) and 71% of business say they are already planning how they will respond to the SDGs.
Consumers and businesses can help drive growth in these low impact fishing methods through support in the market place. Although there are no easy solutions to sustainable consumption, the overall benefits and growth potential of these fisheries are undeniable.
There are reports that this method of pole and line commercial fishing, including use of FAD’s is occuring approximately 36 miles off the Florida Keys. Is this a legal fishery in that area?