A Different Kind of Trophy Shot

August 13, 2010

It s happened so many times before, but not quite like this.

You pull the thick, taut line until the giant beast is in your arms. Careful: The thing is bigger than you and could explode with movement. You haul up the great animal in a sort of hug as you look up at the camera with your trophy from the sea bravely displayed. Click. Trophy shot.

The human-with-big-fish trophy shot has been played out more times in Costa Rica than anyone can count. But these photos are dying out because sportfishers want to use their resource sustainably, and the old trophy shots hurt the fish when they were hauled out of the water. People were beginning to think the trophy shot was a thing of the past.

Check out the new trophy shot of Costa Rican adventure ecotourism. Everything is the same as the old style, except that instead of on deck, you do it underwater, along the longlines set by commercial fishermen.

There is no catch, just release. You then resuscitate the fish by moving it through the water, great for more shots or even video.

You have to resuscitate the great fish because, for who knows how long, it has swum around in tiny circles at the end of a short line, with a steel hook through its mouth. The animal is so exhausted that it may die. That s why you don t worry so much about the danger of grabbing hold of some of the fastest animals in the sea; you can tell when they don t have much kick left in them.

When you feel the fish start to get a little life back, you let go and move away. The fish angles down to the depths and shakes a bit.

Then it starts to swim away into the blue. Another marlin pulls in alongside the first. It had been circling its hooked partner.

By letting the fish off the hook, you may be helping to generate millions of future dollars for the national economy through future sportfishing and ecotourism.

You move a short swim down the long line and find another short line with a sailfish on the end of a hook, its mate circling. So you do it all again. Underwater, the line runs out of sight with more hooks and giant fish.

When you lift your head up from the water and take your mask off, you see that the longline stretches out of sight, with little white buoys holding up the line every 500 meters into the distance. Many of the fish are dead on the hook, but there are still plenty more live ones to release. They will surely die without you.

You keep at it because you want to see big sharks. Diving along long lines remains one of the best ways left to see big sharks in Costa Rica. But you don t see any big sharks, because hardly any are left. You wonder if, soon, any marlin and sailfish will remain.

But you know there are still plenty of trophy shots left to take in Costa Rica. E-mail shawndive@yahoo.com with contributions to The Big Blue, or check out www.costacetacea.com for more information.

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