Red snapper are a dime a dozen these days.

Every now and then something triggers me to dust off the old soapbox, climb up and let it rip. Knowing this, you might be thinking it is time to flip the page, but before you make that decision maybe one of my all-time favorite quick jokes might just keep you engaged enough to hear me out. 

So here is the joke: A seal walks into a bar and takes a seat. At that point the bartender asks, “What will it be?” The seal ponders for a moment and replies, “I’ll take anything except a Canadian Club.” 

Dang, I love that joke though it does betray my age.

So, what has me all stirred up? With so much negative news these days I don’t spend too much time keeping up with the daily headlines. But while skimming the top stories the other day, I read that there will be no snow crab season this year up in the Bering Sea. 

As a fan of the very popular crabbing TV show, “Deadliest Catch,” where snow crabs are probably how they make the most money, the reason for the closure absolutely blew my mind. For whatever reason it has been determined that more than a billion snow crabs have disappeared from the Bering Sea in one year. A billion crabs! 

Honestly, I have a hard time even fathoming that many crabs, but more importantly, what on earth could cause such a massive collapse of a fishery?

I guess my days of going to the grocery store when they have specials on snow crabs are over, but I would gladly forgo laying out newspaper and bowls of melted butter for an at-home crab fest if I knew this meager sacrifice would help bring back these delicious crustaceans.

Did global warming do it? Maybe it was a virus. Whatever the reason I put part of – or maybe all – the blame on the dismal job humans have had on the environment for a long, long time. Disagree if you want, but being an above-average nature observer, I see poor decisions on how to flip the script all the time. 

Sadly, profit vs. loss rules over common sense, especially if decisions could better the air we breathe, the water we drink, and a multitude of other things that would directly benefit the natural world that has given us all so since the dawn of man.    

Did you know that just like the disappearance of snow crabs right here we have experienced a yet unexplained disappearance? Since so many of you that fish a lot are relatively new to the area, tell me when was the last time you caught a saltwater catfish? 

I’ll bet I haven’t caught one in over a decade, but while growing up here there wasn’t a fishing trip where I didn’t catch multiple catfish. They simply disappeared! 

I guess not that many fishermen cared since saltwater catfish were more of an inconvenience, uneatable and, should you get whacked by the spines on their pectoral and dorsal fins you were in a world of hurt. 

But their disappearance should be a warning that something in nature is just not right.  

Having served on numerous fishery advisory councils, I witness decisions that are self-serving for one part or another of the overall fishing community. Other decisions are made not for the betterment of the whole but rather to avoid angering this group or, in some cases, to suit a political agenda. 

Another example is the moratorium on catching and keeping red snapper. I get it that they were being overfished, but where they were being overfished led to the moratorium that stretched way beyond where the overfishing occurred. 

I love bottom fishing offshore, but there are so many red snapper off our coast it is nearly impossible to catch fish like grouper – because the snapper are on your bait long before it can reach the bottom where other bottom fish live. 

I am not advocating a free-for-all for red snapper but better data should be put forth that will thin the population a bit. I truly believe that so many snapper are gobbling up juvenile groupers and such. I may be wrong but that is why more unbiased research needs to be done. 

Finally, changes that will directly benefit nature must start locally. I watch wetlands being filled in for developments and in areas like where I live on the river side of Alljoy Road, it amazes me that we don’t have public water and sewer services yet. 

Most homes in my area have several drain fields that sadly leach into the May River. But instead of making this desperately needed improvement that would benefit the whole, money is going to a bike path. 

With that, I’ll step off my soapbox and pray that each and every one of you hears what I am saying. It all starts at home!   

Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature.