Mississippi River Fish Kill

Posted by MNAngler On April - 2 - 2010

Two months ago, a local news station ran a story about a YouTube video of a fish kill found in Pool 4 of the Mississippi River. According to the report, it “angered” anglers because “fishing blogs erupted with comments like ‘what a waste’ and ‘that’s a shame.'” The news story goes on to say that the commercial fishermen did nothing illegal when they harvested 150,000 pounds of buffalo fish and blamed a new Minnesota law for the fish kill.

The law states that “A person may not release carp or buffalo taken by netting back into the water,” which means that commercial fishermen must sort through their catch by hand to pick out the game fish they are not allowed to keep. Sorting through that large of a take likely took hours, suffocating the fish they were trying to save.

Now you may have started reading this post thinking I was going to get all upset about the fish kill and call for the heads of the commercial fishermen, or urge you to write to your nearest lawmaker saying what a travesty this law is. But I’m not. I have no problem with the fish kill.

Videos like these (the original one) are designed to evoke an emotional response and tell one side of the story. It gets you all hyped up and ready to hang a commercial fisherman. The news story did a good job of defending the commercial fishermen deflecting the so-called anger to the state and the law it enacted. But let’s take a look at what the law is saying and not its unintended side effect.

A person may not release carp or buffalo taken by netting back into the water.

That, to me, is a good thing. Carp and buffalo are very destructive species. They are known as rough fish. They can take over a lake or river and destroy everything in it. If these commercial fishermen took out 150,000 pounds (read that again… one hundred and fifty THOUSAND pounds) of these fish out of the river, I’m all for it. There are going to be casualties. That’s the nature of the business. It was reported that one to five percent was game fish. In the grand scheme of things, that is not a lot. If that one to five percent helps the rest of the game fish survive, we’ll all be better for it. If you read the comments for the original video on YouTube, many are on the same page as I am. They also point out the dead fish in the video will feed the ecosystem in the area.

On the other hand, I do have a problem with the way this story was reported. The news station in question, and TV news media in general, sensationalize stories to get ratings. The comments they cited from fishing blogs–which were actually taken from a forum, by the way–are hardly “angry” comments. They were more like disappointments. Using a word like “erupted” certainly backs an “angry” mob of anglers, but they don’t say how many replies were actually posted. I tried to find out for myself, but the forum in question isn’t searchable, so I couldn’t find the original post and replies. The news story could have reported on how many posts were made to support such a term.

All activities have a good side and a bad side. Even fishing tournaments, while good for the industry, put a lot of stress on the fish in the lake they are held. Please don’t take that to mean I’m against fishing tournaments. The point is, you can’t take a look at one video, or one news story and take it simply on it’s surface. In this case, I think the benefit far outweighs any damage that may have been done.

When you encounter a video like this, think through it. Don’t react solely on the emotions the story is telling.

Here’s the original YouTube video: Dead Fish of Pool 4
Here’s the local news story: Video of dead fish in Mississippi angers anglers

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One Response to “Mississippi River Fish Kill”

  1. MNAngler says:

    This article was picked up by the Chicago Sun Times: http://bit.ly/cuG9aL

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