Just How Long Have Human Beings Been Fishing

This image of what are currently the world’s oldest known fish hooks has been showing up in news stories this month.

World's Oldest Fish Hooks

These are about 23,000 years old and were discovered in a cave in Okinawa, Japan. Researchers have been excavating the cave which was apparently used by successive groups of human beings for fishing as early as 35,000 years ago.

As the researchers note, this suggests that fishing technologies were more widely distributed at an earlier date than previously thought,

Maritime adaptation was one of the essential factors that enabled modern humans to disperse all over the world. However, geographic distribution of early maritime technology during the Late Pleistocene remains unclear. At this time, the Indonesian Archipelago and eastern New Guinea stand as the sole, well-recognized area for secure Pleistocene evidence of repeated ocean crossings and advanced fishing technology. The incomplete archeological records also make it difficult to know whether modern humans could sustain their life on a resource-poor, small oceanic island for extended periods with Paleolithic technology. We here report evidence from a limestone cave site on Okinawa Island, Japan, of successive occupation that extends back to 35,000?30,000 y ago. Well-stratified strata at the Sakitari Cave site yielded a rich assemblage of seashell artifacts, including formally shaped tools, beads, and the world’s oldest fishhooks. These are accompanied by seasonally exploited food residue. The persistent occupation on this relatively small, geographically isolated island, as well as the appearance of Paleolithic sites on nearby islands by 30,000 y ago, suggest wider distribution of successful maritime adaptations than previously recognized, spanning the lower to midlatitude areas in the western Pacific coastal region.

Minnesota Governor Rejects PETA’s Request To Protect Walleye Pike

In July, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Karin Robinson sent a letter to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

That letter asked Pawlenty to make it illegal for fisherman in Minnesota to catch the state fish, the walleyed pike.

Instead, the Governor’s office released the following statement,

The following is a statement from Governor Tim Pawlenty regarding a request from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to declare walleye off limits to fishing in Minnesota:

“PETA continues to display goofy judgment. Fishing is part of our way of life in Minnesota – moms, dads, kids, and grandparents enjoy beautiful summer and winter days fishing. We care for and enjoy our natural resources the right way. The PETA ‘Fish Empathy Project’ is nutty and misses the mark. Fishing is not, as they claim, the same thing as hooking a dog through the mouth and dragging them behind your car.

“PETA should stay out of Minnesota’s proud fishing lifestyle. Because of their letter, I’m going out for a walleye dinner tonight.”


Pawlenty rejects PETA ‘fish emapthy’ request. Associated Press, August 4, 2005.

Governor Pawlenty’s Statement Regarding A Request From PETA To Declare Walleye Off-Limits To Fishing. Press Release, August 2, 2005.

North Carolina State Senator Introduces Hunter’s Bill of Rights

In March, North Carolina State Senator David Hoyle introduced a bill in that state’s legislature that would add a hunter’s bill of rights to that states laws which, among other things, explicitly holds that animals are property and that any laws or regulations in North Carolina may hold otherwise.

The language of Senate Bill 918 reads that,

The General Assembly finds that animals are property, whether the animals are domesticated animals owned by persons or wildlife resources held in trust for all citizens. No law, local ordinance, rule, or regulation shall seek to establish or attempt to grant to animals any rights of persons under the law. No statute, local ordinance, rule, or regulation shall have as its philosophical basis the concept that animals are entitled to the legal justice to which persons are entitled, or that animals have the rights of persons under the law.

In addition to holding hunting, fishing and trapping as a right in North Carolina,

Hunting, trapping, and fishing, including the taking of wild animals, wild birds, and fish, are a valued part of the heritage of this State, are a fundamental right of the people, and shall be forever preserved for the people.

The law also explicitly bans any sort of hunt saboteur activities,

It is unlawful for a person to interfere intentionally with the lawful taking of wildlife resources or to drive, harass, or intentionally disturb any wildlife resources for the purpose of disrupting the lawful taking of wildlife resources. It is unlawful for a person to intentionally distract or displace, or attempt to distract or displace, a hunting dog while that dog is running, hunting, on point, or in training. It is unlawful to take or abuse property, equipment, or hunting dogs that are being used for the lawful taking of wildlife resources. This subsection does not apply to a person who incidentally interferes with the taking of wildlife resources while using the land for other lawful activity such as agriculture, mining, or recreation. This subsection also does not apply to activity by a person on land he owns or leases.

The full text of North Carolina Senate Bill 918 can be read here.

PETA Wants Newspapers to End Fishing Columns

In March and April, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent out letters to newspapers across the country asking them to remove columns about fishing from their sports page.

Bill Sargent, who writes a fishing column for Florida Today wrote in a recent column that his newspaper received a letter from PETA that read, in part,

I’m writing to suggest that it is time to abandon your paper’s fishing column. More and more evidence from animal behaviorists shows that fish are sensitive, intelligent and interesting individuals. These fairly recent discoveries are driving PETA’s new ‘Fish Empathy Project,’ and they lend strong support to the move to regulate fishing columns to the dustbin of history.

. . .

And, as no one in their right mind can dispute, fish feel pain as all animals do.

Please consider this: You wouldn’t dedicate space in your paper to the recreational abuse of dogs and cats, yet the fishing column encourages cruelty to animals every bit as capable of feeling pain as any dog or cat.

If you’re not ready to cancel the fishing column, perhaps you can ask your publisher to move it to a more appropriate section of the paper — for example, the crime report or the obituaries, where it will blend right in.

Not surprisingly, none of the newspapers that received the letter have decided to eliminate their fishing column.

The odd thing about this letter is that, like others related to PETA’s Fish Empathy Project, it was signed by PETA’s Karin Robertson. Robertson generated a bit of publicity for PETA in 2003 when she claimed she had legally changed her name to GoVeg.Com. Shortly after the novelty effect and the publicity went away, however, she and PETA simply went back to using her previous name.

Apparently the name change was about as real as PETA’s claim that it doesn’t target children.


PETA opposes fishing column. Rockford Register Star, March 12, 2005.

PETA wants fishing columns deep-sixed. Bill Sargent, Florida Today, April 3, 2005.

New York Assemblyman Wants Anti-Hunting Office

In February, New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz introduced a bill in that state’s legislature to create a new Office of Advocacy for Wildlife that would, among other things, be charged with finding alternatives to hunting for managing wildlife populations.

Assembly Bill 4306 would create this new agency which would be charged with, among other things,

To study, develop, encourage and provide assistance for non-lethal management of wildlife.

The full text of AB4306 can be read here.


New York Bill Creates Anti-Hunting Office. U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, March 2005.

PETA — Spare the Rod and Spoil the Fish

People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals activists showed up here in Michigan in February to protest the eating of fish. Karin Robertson, manager of PETA’s Fish Empathy Project, told the Cadillac News,

People are horrified when they hear how fish are treated, there is cruelty so horrendous that it would be criminal if performed on other animals.

I don’t know about that — fishing’s pretty popular here in Michigan and I think many people are aware of how fish are caught and processed without being horrified.

Anyway, on its website, PETA goes on at length about the “terror” fish face,

Imagine reaching for an apple on a tree and having your hand suddenly impaled by a metal hook that drags you—the whole weight of your body pulling on that one hand—out of the air and into an atmosphere in which you cannot breathe. This is what fish experience when they are hooked for “sport.”

Many people grow up fishing without ever considering the terror and suffering that fish endure when they’re impaled by a hook and pulled out of the water. Recreational anglers rarely stop to contemplate that fish are complex and intelligent individuals. In fact, if anglers treated cats, dogs, cows, or pigs the way they treat fish, they would be thrown in prison on charges of cruelty to animals.

PETA also extols the intelligence of fish, who are apparently even smarter than the average animal rights activist,

Many people have never stopped to think about it, but fish are smart, interesting animals with their own unique personalities—just like the dogs and cats we share our homes with [not if PETA had its way, however]. Did you know that fish can learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and that they can recognize individual “shoal mates”? Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some—such as the South African fish who lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place—even use tools.

Hey, I’ve even heard that some fish are smart enough to eat other fish. They’re so smart, in fact, they don’t have to deal with activists urging them to go vegan.


PETA attempts to sway people from eating fish. Matt Whetstone, Cadillac News, February 10, 2005.