Animal rights activists protested a fishing tournament in North Carolina over the weekend, hosting what they described as a "Vigil for Fish."
According to WECT-TV, a small group of protesters from two local groups — Wilmington Fish Save and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save — gathered outside the Wrightsville Beach InShore Challenge holding signs disavowing the tournament.
Demonstrators held signs that said:
- "Fish feel pain"
- "Sea life, not sea food"
- "Fish want to live"
A Facebook event posting said the protest's demeanor "will be that of people at a funeral for a friend: solemn, sad, and respectful of the dead."
Protester Daniel Veber told WECT that demonstrators gathered in solidarity with the fish because the fish cannot speak for themselves.
"We’re vegan activists, and we want to bring awareness to what fish go through," he said. "A lot of times, they look so different from us that you don’t really put them into a position where you give them individual status, where they are actually individuals that want to live. They don’t want to pulled out of the water, fish have families, fish want to live."
"Look at it from the fish’s point of view. If you were in your home, you would not want a hook to be hooked in the mouth, you would not want to be pulled up, you wouldn’t have to fight hours for your life to be pulled up — it’s scary," he added.
While many fishing tournaments are catch-and-release, event organizer Gary Hurley told WECT that fish caught during his tournament are donated to a Wilmington food bank to help people in need.
What was the response to the protest?
Hurley noted the irony of the protest, explaining that fisherman are some of the most ecologically aware outdoorsmen.
"Fishermen, in general, are probably the best stewards of the resource. They care about the resource more than anyone else. I can’t speak to perhaps their claims that fish have feelings, that fish have souls, I mean I’m not sure," he said.
Regarding his tournament specifically, Hurley said it is "conservation-based" and organizers even encourage wranglers to submit their fish to judges alive by rewarding extra money.
The protest, he said, was a nonissue for the tournament, adding he's "glad we live in a place where you can protest."