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August 2001 Vol. 16, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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$5,000 Reward for Errant Spearfisherman

from the August, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The owner of Body Glove, a major wetsuit manufacturer, has posted a $5,000 reward to catch a California poacher who speared a 350-pound giant sea bass that may be a century old. Bob Meistrell put up the money when he got word that the protected, friendly giant was spotted off Santa Catalina Island in mid-June on the shoreward side of the island. Later, another diver pulled out the spear, and then another diver reported that the wound was healing.

Overfishing led the number of the giant sea basses to plummet until they became protected in 1982. The population is bouncing back, much to the delight of divers who can often get a close-up look. “They’ve become like puppy dogs,” said Meistrell. “They swim right up to you. People pet em.”

Harming the fish is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of six months in jail, a $2,000 fine and the seizure of the marine equipment used in the crime.

Meistrell said he and his twin brother each speared a giant sea bass in Mexico in the 1950s, when doing so was legal. “We were young and stupid,” he said. His attitude has changed markedly since then. Recently he saw a man diving with his son who illegally speared a lobster. Not only was the catch out of season, but it was laden with tens of thousands of eggs. After Meistrell told him the error of his ways the spearfisherman apologized and said, “I’m glad you stayed calm.” Meistrell replied, “You were lucky I didn’t have a spear gun.”

—Leon Drouin Keith, Associated Press

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