Not long ago I took some friends to a favourite diving place of mine in Melbourne called Cottage by the Sea. This particular place has deep overhangs and crevices that provide shelter and feeding ground for lots of ocean life. It's home to one of the most inquisitive and cute 'fish' (actually an invertebrate, like an octopus) in the world - the Cuttlefish.
Imagine a creature that can change colour and texture on demand, can hover, shoot forward or backwards and has eyes that can look into your soul. A cuttlefish is SO much more than a piece of calcium washed up on the beach. This vid will give you a better picture:
One of my favourite things to do when diving is poke my head into the caves in the reef and see how fish are spending their day. I was doing exactly this when all of a sudden a large cuttlefish shot out and grabbed one of our air gauges with his tentacles! (Cuttlefish use their tentacles to explore things, just like we might pick something up with our hands.) The gauge was bright yellow and he was flashing different colours trying to match it. He seemed highly fascinated with the colour and shape of the gauge. Then he suddenly let go and hovered right near my friend's mask, having a good long look at her. Cuttlefish can actually make eye contact!
Our playful cuttle then moved on to another diver in our group who was quite nervous about the strange creature in front of him. I think the cuttle sensed this and actually toyed with him. The cuttlefish would dart forward; the diver would back up and the cuttle would raise four of his tentacles above his head and lower the other ones in a really funny gesture.
Then the cuttle moved towards me. He gently touched my raised hand with his tentacles before hovering up to my mask to look me in the eye!
We watched for a long while as the cuttle moved away from us. But when we decided to move on, I turned back a few times to see him slowly following us, watching us the whole time.
When we surfaced we couldn't stop talking about our cuttle encounter. We felt he was communicating with us and that we were lucky to be in the presence of such an intelligent creature.
I have no doubt that most sea creatures feel pain, and since this experience with the cuttle (who are directly related to squids) my friends haven't eaten any calamari. It's often the case that people won't knowingly contribute to the killing of an animal they feel empathy for. So why should our marine creatures be any different?
I love retelling this story because I know people who hear it will never look at cuttle bones on the beach the same way again. Would this kind of experience stop you eating squid or cuttlefish? Or have you given up seafood altogether?
On a lovely sunny Saturday a couple of weeks ago a friend and I decided we would do one of Port Phillip Bay's most popular shore dives at St Leonards Pier. This is a great dive because of the many sea creatures that call the pier home. There are normally heaps of Seadragons, Leatherjackets, Stingray's, Nudibranchs and even the occasional Stargazer.
With all our gear on and ready to shoot some photos we swam in under the pier. There are usually quite a few people fishing from the pier, so we were very aware of fishing lines and the possibility of getting tangled up.
We made the decision to head out from under the pier and as we headed out I made a mental note of several discarded fishing lines that I would cut free on my way back. These are very hard to spot and seriously threaten wildlife by entangling them. Then suddenly I felt a very sharp pain in my left index finger! OUCH!
I looked down to realise I'd been hooked by a large hook through the skin on the top of my finger from one knuckle to the other. My skin was now being stretched to the point of tearing and was starting to bleed. But then I realised it could get much worse. Surfacing too quickly puts both humans and fish alike at risk of an internal embolism or overexpansion injury. This is something every wild caught fish would go through when they are netted and dragged up from depth. Their flotation bladders explode internally and their eyes bulge due to the change in pressure.
My finger felt like it was going to be torn open. With my free hand I caught the fishing line to relieve the tension on my finger and just held on for the ride to the surface. The first thing I saw when I got to the surface was a guy with a scary grimace like smile on his face doing his best to 'land his catch'. Needless to say he was pretty shocked when he realised he'd hooked a diver. I spat my regulators out and I think unfortunately a pile of expletives followed! I grabbed my knife and with the pressure now off my finger I was able to cut the line. The next job was to pull the barbed hook out of my finger. Once done the pain really set in. I hadn't realised the hook had also caught my tendon and now my finger was swelling quickly. To this day the finger still hurts. But actually, I'm thankful I had the experience. 'Cause now I know first hand how cruel fishing is.
I've always disagreed with recreational fishing. It seems barbaric to me to find joy in hooking a living feeling being through the mouth and let her fight to exhaustion on the end of a line; then drag her out to suffocate to death. Most fish are not killed quickly and they suffer a painful drawn out death. Those that are thrown back are often injured beyond recovery or are killed by predators because they are too exhausted to escape. All this in the name of entertainment!?!
Sadly most victims of fishing don't live to tell the tale. But the next time someone tries to tell you fishing doesn't hurt, point them in my direction and I'll set the record straight!
We’re supposed to let you know that the ideas expressed here are the views of the individual authors, and may not necessarily reflect the views of Animals Australia or Animals Australia Unleashed. So now you know.