Using reason to do good

Fish for a living and it’s easy to become jaded about “do gooders” who, sometimes naively and sometimes not, make it their business to save the ocean and all its fish from the evil predations of commercial fishermen.

2014 1030 Jonathan GonzalezJonathan Gonzalez shares what he’s learned about gillnet fishing on his website, organiccreativity.com. organiccreativity.com photoBut the truth is that every now and then someone like Jonathan Gonzalez, a graphic designer in Santa Barbara, Calif., comes along and reminds us that humans are blessed with reason, and some use it.

Gonzalez suffered the laudable bias to conserve that all too often leads folks to jump to conclusions about human interactions with their environment, particularly when it comes to fishing, agriculture and so-called extractive industries.

He was no exception, at least in the beginning.

As a volunteer for the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center he came to view gillnets as curtains of death, largely as a result of sea lion bycatch, even though the sea lions were released alive. But he made his bones on sharks with the launch in 2009 of SharkFreeSB.com, which was dedicated to getting local restaurants to stop serving shark fin soup.

(He is perplexed to this day at the willingness of shark conservationists to grant him “expert status” for little more than advocating a position and laying out a website.)

Fortunately, the same honest intellect that led him to question gillnets and shark fishing stood him in good stead when he spoke with local fishermen and chefs, and he followed up his conversations with research. He discovered that responsible conservation, like responsible fishing, is a nuanced business.

His story is compelling and reasserts the power of ideas. You can find it on his blog, Organic Creativity.

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