On Moray Hunting

I am thankful for the opportunity to contribute this guest editorial, especially since I’m writing to take issue with an article that appears in the August 2013 issue of California Diving News.

I am writing to express my opposition to the Scuba Chef column “Grilled Eel with Spicy Thai Sauce.” I was stunned by the suggestion that divers should hunt moray eels for food. In my opinion, this is a very bad idea, for several reasons. 
I’ll start with the current population of eels. It has only been in the last couple of years that divers have once again been regularly encountering morays. Their historical environments –the Channel Islands, Malibu, Palos Verdes, and the Laguna Beach reefs, San Diego/Point Loma, Catalina and San Clemente Island‚äîhave for most of the last decade seen a dearth if not a total lack of these wonderfully odd creatures. It is only in the last few years that they have started making a comeback of sorts. To promote the hunting of these animals shows poor judgment and a lack of knowledge for the Southern California underwater environment. For many divers, to spot a moray eel on a dive is just as rare and magical an encounter as seeing a shark or black sea bass. I cringe at the thought that the moray eel article and recipe will encourage spear fishermen to go out and kill an eel for their supper. 
Though my main concern is for the morays, my second concern is for those who might risk being injured while hunting. I have seen a speared moray turn a 5/16th stainless steel spear shaft into spaghetti and send the hunter to the hospital to seek treatment for a badly injured hand. Attempting to spear a moray eel is a dangerous idea that could result in serious harm. I do not recommend it.
Other factors to consider include moray population numbers and a potential risk to consumers. Exact population numbers of moray eels in our waters are unknown. We do know that moray eels do not reach sexual maturity until at least three years of age, and many fall prey to various marine creatures before they are able to reproduce. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that moray eel flesh might present a ciguatera poisoning risk to those who consume it.
In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I am not opposed to responsible, thoughtful hunting. I freely admit to spearing fish for food. My weapon of choice is a 48-inch pole spear and my target of choice is calico bass. And, as the Scuba Chef column reminds us, I “Always “stay legal” and never take more than I’ll eat.
I respectfully suggest that future Scuba Chef columns focus on recipes featuring sustainable resources such as calico bass, halibut, yellowtail, white sea bass and sand bass. 
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