Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

Does the natural world stand any chance at all?

When the cancer that is humanity is long gone from this glorious earth, what will actually be left? What will be our legacy as such? When all evidence that we ever existed is mere dust on a warm breeze, could there possibly be any other word to use which better describes our tenure than shame? The overriding sense of shame that in a relatively short space of time we went and royally screwed this planet up good and proper. Sure, the recent and perfectly pathetic political overtures towards the supposed protection and regeneration of bass stocks has brought about this blog post, but think more about this and be perfectly honest with yourself as a human being - and wonder when and not if we are going to take every single fish from the sea, and if any part of this perfectly magical natural world stands any meaningful chance of sticking around for a whole lot longer whilst the cancer upon this earth that is us keeps on doing what we do………….

I don’t believe in god, and mythical higher powers to me are no more than a comfort blanket for those people who need it, but if there was something or someone to prostrate oneself in front of and beg forgiveness for the way in which we collectively behave, then I would be weeping tears of shame into the soil. As anglers we bitch and moan about such insignificant stuff as not now being legally allowed to take a few bass to eat for the first six months of next year, whilst the various individuals we elected to power sell us down the river yet have the gumption to write us an open letter in which they tell us that things are pretty cool and that all these measures (that they have so selflessly been hard at work on for the greater good) are in fact going to save the bass stocks - check here and do your best to stop feeling nauseous.

“We would like to wish you all A Merry Christmas and a relaxing end of year time with your families” the bloke says at the end of the piece. You enjoy your roast turkey Bernhard and may you one day feel just a smidgen of guilt that you can actually put it out into the public domain that any measures involving inshore gill-netting can really be in the same piece of writing as other words such as “rebuild” and “heartened”. As anglers I feel that we must do our bit, and if our bit is nothing more than not taking any bass for the first half of next year then holy frigging cow is that really so hard to do? Some of the stuff I see thrown around by people connected to the angling industry leave me ashamed at times not only that I am a part of the angling industry myself, but also that I am a human being and therefore I am part of the collective responsibility for doing essentially squat. We throw around how much we care for the fish we fish for, yet when it comes to sending something as simple as an email to at least try and make the smallest smidgen of difference, the levels of apathy and ignorance at times leave me absolutely staggered. Nope, let’s all bitch and moan and blame each other instead. How about sometimes doing stuff because it’s simply the right thing to do?

We are the human race and this whole bass stocks thing to me is a perfect example of the way we collectively behave. Sure, as an angler who loves bass fishing I obviously have an acute interest in what is going on at the moment - and I am hoping that you at least keep an eye on the BASS and SOS websites - but in reality this kind of story is being played out around the world. I am going to assume that most of you are anglers and as such have at least a passing interest in the natural world, and via this I am hoping that you have been watching the latest BBC series “The Hunt”. Nobody does wildlife work like the Beeb when they are on form, and it’s been a truly magical series, but what really struck home to me in that thought provoking last episode was the sad and unavoidable fact that we as mankind hold the fate of so much of the natural world in the palm of our hands - and quite frankly I find that absolutely bloody terrifying.

We might be successfully wiping out much of the ocean’s fish stocks, and out of sight and out of mind will forever be the yoke under which this whole process “works”, but when you are faced with the stark reality that we as a species are truly responsible for so much damage to the whole world we live in - and we can’t even live together in peace - then how much chance does the natural world really stand? The chance that a species like say the cheetah could one day be missing from the sheer vastness that is the African continent is something that I simply do not have the ability to truly comprehend. The fact that we have been on this earth for such a comparatively short space of time yet here we are wondering for how long there might actually be a fish like the bass to fish for. Yep, it’s beyond selfish in some respects to worry about having fish to catch for our sporting pleasure, but in some respects one must wonder that if there were no anglers wanting fish to catch whether some species would be here at all. Would the US striped bass fishery have been brought back from the edge of collapse if such a vibrant, financially and politically important sport fishing industry based around them didn’t exist?

Which in some ways of course defies logic. An animal species needing human beings wanting to catch and sometimes kill them in some roundabout way might give them a future that we in our infinite wisdom deem ourselves able to do - kinda the same as hunters pleading their case that hunting say lions and pumping license money back into conservation is a viable way of helping to protect the very creatures they strive to kill. We rise up upon our high horses about some US dentist killing cuddly African animals for pleasure, yet we sit back and take the shafting that is the recent bass “conservation” measures. Nothing that I write here is going to make the blindest bit of difference, but I can at least give voice to my shame at how we treat the natural world. I so wanted to get my operation out of the way and come on here with a positive response to all this bass related stuff that has been announced, but when your politicians simply ride roughshod over clinical scientific advice and try to sell you horseshit such as an inshore gill-net fishery in fact being “low impact”, well perhaps you might understand me despairing like I sometimes do - and I implore you to read this recent BASS blog post here. Does the natural world stand any chance at all against a growing tide of humanity?

And as for my operation, well I would like to say a profound thanks to Derriford hospital in Plymouth for sorting me out so efficiently and kindly. I went under at 3.10pm last Thursday afternoon and I came round at about 5.30pm I think it was, and I was back home for supper that evening. Derriford were outstanding, and whilst my wife and girls don’t read this blog, I need to say a massive thanks to them for looking after me so well. I will find out if they got the cancer out of me in four weeks or so, and whilst I can’t pretend that sitting around on my arse and not being able to go dog walking or fishing isn’t making me feel “mildly’ frustrated, things seem to have gone as well as they possibly could. Sure, parts of me are sore at times, but this was some pretty minor surgery really, and loads of people go through far, far worse than this. A huge thanks to so many of you for your kind messages of support - thank you, thank you. It means so much.