‘Trash’ the Fishing Tournaments, PETA Urges Bay Foundation

For Immediate Release:
July 21, 2022

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Annapolis, Md.

This morning, PETA sent a letter to Chesapeake Bay Foundation President and CEO Hilary Harp Falk urging her to cancel the upcoming Maryland and Virginia “Rod and Reef Slam: Angling for Oyster Restoration” fishing tournaments and replace them with events that benefit animals and the environment, such as “trash fishing.” The bay is awash with litter, including plastic debris that harms animals and is a pollutant, and participants in this popular pastime collect trash and dangerous discarded fishing lines, floats, and hooks, which wildlife rehabilitators say are among the greatest threats facing aquatic life—and spare fish the immense pain of being pierced through their mouths and pulled out of their home.

PETA notes that studies have shown that fish who are caught and then returned to the water, as in the “catch-and-release” fishing promoted by the planned tournaments, can experience severe physiological stress and often die of shock.

“Saving the bay means allowing all its inhabitants to live in peace,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA suggests urgently replacing cruel fish-tormenting tournaments with humane, environmentally friendly trash-fishing competitions.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment or abuse in any other way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Falk and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation follows.

July 21, 2022

Hilary Harp Falk

President and CEO

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Dear Ms. Falk:

I’m writing on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals U.S.—PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally and more than 230,000 in Maryland and Virginia—in response to complaints we’ve received regarding your Virginia and Maryland Rod & Reef Slam fishing tournaments. We respectfully request that you cancel these harmful tournaments, as they contradict your stated goal of “speaking for fish,” and replace them with events that celebrate fish in a way doesn’t maim or kill them, such as “trash fishing” competitions. These would allow fish to thrive while helping tackle pollution in the Chesapeake Bay—including abandoned fishing nets and monofilament line, the most common and harmful form of debris affecting aquatic animals. Allow me to elaborate.

Fishing disrespects the environment and the animals who live in it and sends the dangerous message that it’s fun to kill vulnerable individuals. Whether people like to think about it or not, fish are sentient beings capable of experiencing fear and pain—including the pain of hooks piercing their sensitive mouths, which have many nerve endings. It’s no more acceptable to harm fish than it is to harm any other living, feeling beings. You may know that fish who are released after being hooked often die from their injuries, and at least one out of three fish who are caught and thrown back into the water experiences such severe psychological distress that they die of shock.

Every year, anglers worldwide leave behind a trail of victims that includes turtles, birds, and other animals who sustain debilitating injuries after swallowing fishhooks or becoming entangled in fishing line. Already this year, a record-high 58 sea turtles have been hooked in the lower Chesapeake Bay and nearby ocean waters, according to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. In addition, recent research estimates that recreational fishers are responsible for catching almost a million tons of fish every year, which has long been known to contribute to a decline in fish populations and biodiversity.

We hope your conservation work will include allowing fish and other marine life to live by canceling these fishing tournaments. Thank you for your consideration.

Very truly yours,

Ingrid Newkirk


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