Meet a man with some very captivating stories about fishing, scuba diving, and ocean conservation: Fred Garth. Fred is the Editor-In-Chief at Guy Harvey magazine, and a very avid sport-fisherman himself.
You’ve definitely got an envious profession here as Editor-In-Chief for a big recreational sport-fishing magazine. How did you manage to combine your talent for writing with your passion for the ocean?
As with anything, luck and timing played a big role. I grew up a child of the ocean in north Florida – swimming, sailing, surfing, skiing and fishing – so aqua passion is deeply ingrained in my blood.
In my early 20s, I cruised around the Caribbean on an old 30-foot wooden sailboat called the Home Brew and I really feel in love with scuba.
That led to an editor’s job at a scuba diving magazine, which led me to Grand Cayman, where I met an “up and coming artist” named Guy Harvey. Twenty years later we reconnected to create a magazine that combines our passion for marine conservation with my love of writing and storytelling.
You work in an interesting intersection – between the fishing industry and marine conservation. Do you think that recreational fishermen today are well-educated on marine conservation issues? And are they open to working with solutions? Or do you find that there is still a lot of opposition to government interventions?
In general, sport fishermen are the greatest advocates for marine conservation. It’s a perfect example of protecting what we love.
At the same time, anglers are also skeptical of government intervention. This is largely because most laws, like the highly-controversial Magnuson-Stevens Act, were originally written for commercial fishermen. This was before recreational fishing had organized, found its voice or grown into the multi-billion dollar industry we have today.
Now, sport fishing groups are making great strides with our elected officials. So, yes, fishermen are working on solutions and are more and more educated on the issues.
How have you seen your local marine environment change in your lifetime down in Florida? What are the biggest threats/changes you’ve experienced to the fishing industry, and tourism as a whole?
Changes have been both good and bad. Back to the last question, one thing fishery managers have done fairly well is rebuild sealife populations. We have more red snapper, triggerfish, swordfish, blue crabs, trout – pretty much healthy fisheries across the board with a few exceptions.
On the other side, water pollution is our greatest nemesis. Red tides, with horrendous fish kills, have persisted in the Southwest part of the state and only seem to be getting worse. This is related to the most challenging issue Florida faces: restoring water flow to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades. Big Sugar continues to dominate our policy makers and none of them seem to have the backbone to stand up to the sugar industry. Waterfront property on both the Atlantic and Gulf have been assaulted by guacamole-like, toxic sludge. This affects charter boats, fishing guides, boat sales, tackle sales, real estate values, tourism – pretty much every economic driver in Florida.
Fortunately, groups like the Everglades Foundation and Captains for Clean Water are making progress but it’s a fight that has dragged on for decades, whereas it should be a collaborative efforts with NGOs and governments working together.
What’s one field in marine conservation that recreational fishermen can really step up to address and lead on?
The lionfish invasion is still a major issue and fishermen and divers as well as state agencies are hitting that head on. It’s not a quick fix and will probably be a decades-long battle.
But, the one issue I believe fishermen should play a leading role in is plastic. From straws to water bottles to grocery bags, we’re all users and we have the ability to change our habits as well as influence others. There are some 50 million people who fish in the US and many times that worldwide. We have the political sway and power in numbers to make sure that we stop the overwhelming amount of plastics that end up in the ocean and our marine animals.
What does the future of recreational fishing look like? Are youths today still interested in connecting with the ocean?
As long as the fishing public and the regulatory agencies continue to work toward sustainable fisheries, then the future of recreational fishing is bright. Fish population rebound if given the chance.
However, sea life also must have clean water in which to thrive so abating pollution is equally as important.
While children today have a lot of options and distractions, there’s nothing quite like seeing a kid’s eyes light up when they catch a fish. That thrill and appreciation is the first step in creating a conservation minded community of kids. So, if you get the chance, take a kid fishing!
I found this great quote the other day by Henry David Thoreau – “Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Can you relate to this idea personally? If so, what does it say about the relationship between fishermen and nature?
I so deeply relate and agree with Thoreau.
For me, fishing is absolutely a religious experience that I only share with very close personal friends. I refuse to go fishing with loudmouths or assholes. Life is too short for that.
Fishing is a chance to share nature with those you love, strengthen relationships you cherish, discuss life and love, and drink a few cold beverages with friends. If you catch a few fish, maybe even dinner, then that’s just a bonus the universe has granted you.
How I Sea is a new effort by The TerraMar Project to dive into the minds of our global ocean community. We highlight opinions on conservation issues such as: marine pollution, overfishing, drilling, climate change, marine protected areas, scientific discoveries, and much more. Stay tuned for more.