Mark Spitzer is an associate professor of writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of more than twenty-five books, including Season of the Gar: Adventures in Pursuit of America’s Most Misunderstood Fish, Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (Bison Books, 2017) and In Search of Monster Fish: Angling for a More Sustainable Planet (Nebraska, 2019). Spitzer has consulted for Nat Geo’s Monster Fish and appeared on Animal Planet’s River Monsters. Spitzer’s previous guest posts can be found under the heading “Where in the West is Mark Spitzer?”.
I love this action-packed, color photo of my Puget Sound dogfish (of which the black and white version was used in the conclusion of In Search of Monster Fish), the expression on my face pretty much summarizing what I get out of “monster-fishing.” Though I’m 52 years old in this picture, you can definitely see the child in me getting one hell of a kick out of that thrashing, gnashing mini-shark.
Still, the book ends with some pretty adult observations launched by apocryphal arguments attributed to Chief Seattle having to do with us humans messing up the only planet we have left. That’s why I float a flotilla of solutions in the last chapter for environmental problems ranging from specific fishery issues to employing alternative energy sources to what to do about global warming while mis- and disinformation complicate “the whole fracking enchilada.”
These solutions are accessible in the book, published during the year that the UN Climate Report slapped us in the face with the news that we only have eleven years left before “irreversible damage” cripples us to a point that our imaginations are incapable of envisioning. Of course, that was basically three years ago, so we’ve only got eight years left—which is why the Cop 26 UN Climate Change Conference happened in Glasgow this fall. It was an international meeting of leaders focused on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Regarding the outcomes of this event, we have Swedish teen-celebrity activist Greta Thurnberg responding “Blah blah blah,” and on the other hand we have politicians like John Kerry shooting to provide hope that a bunch of coordinated baby steps will make a difference soon enough.
All this, however, comes at a time when other deadlines are quickly looming—especially one we’ve been aware of for a decade and a half. As Stanford News reported back in 2006, an international team of economists and ecologists found that “the loss of marine biodiversity worldwide is profoundly reducing the ocean’s ability to produce seafood, resist diseases, filter pollutants and rebound from stresses, such as climate change and overfishing.” Their unequivocal conclusion being: “all species of wild seafood will collapse . . . . by the year 2050.”
Imagine: no seafood in less than thirty years.
Imagine: what will happen to our freshwater fisheries when ten billion humans compete for protein.
Imagine: scientists studying data, releasing reports, warning us—while a world full of powerless peons pee their pants in fright. Either that, or remains numb in oblivious denial.
Sounds like what we’re up against.
Meanwhile, time is running out. Sure, we’re thinking up ways to suck carbon out of the atmosphere and convert it into other stuff; we’re gradually converting to cleaner, less dangerous fuel sources; and we’re making plans to do this and do that by 2030 with or without China on board. But friends, we are at the breaking point, and we need a miracle now. Either that, or a whole lot of other distractions to not see what’s going on.
So as all this goes on, may the Monster Fish be with you! No, make that… May All Fish Be With You. Literally! Because when the fish are gone, you can be sure that we won’t be sitting around lamenting their unfortunate passage. Because when mass fish species crash, well… you can guess the rest.