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James Drake

One of the definitions found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary for obscene is “repulsive by reason of crass disregard of moral or ethical principles.”

I’ve known a couple people in my life that that description would fit pretty well. And one fellow I’ve never met, but just read about, brought the word obscene immediately to my mind.

His name is Kiyoshi Kimura, the president of the Kiyomura Company. Kiyomura operates a chain of sushi restaurants.

I don’t find Kimura obscene for running a bunch of eating establishments nor do I begrudge him whatever benefits he reaps for rising so high in their corporate structure.

No, what strikes me as so dishonorable about this guy is that he just paid 155.4 million yen at Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market for a 489-pound bluefin tuna. That comes to $1.76 million.

I’m no wiz at math, but I checked my figures three times and I believe that makes for tuna at about $3,600 a pound.

That’s obscene, and what makes it worse is that Kiyoshi admitted the price “was a bit high,” after the auction, “but I wanted to give Japan a boost.” Some boost.

After parading his prize through town, Kiyoshi planned to cut up the big fish and start serving it up to his moneyed customers that evening.

The thing is, paying such an astronomical price for tuna doesn’t necessarily translate into exceptionally high fish quality. He didn’t do this for an investment but rather it was just a very expensive publicity stunt.

Last year, this same man bought a then record priced tuna at a New York City auction for $736,000.

This year’s big fish was caught off the northeast coast of Japan.

Then, just a few days after Kiyoshi wrote that big check, Japan’s own scientists released a new stock assessment for the bluefin tuna and the findings should shock any moral and principled person.

According to this latest report, the Pacific bluefin population has dropped 96.4 percent from unfished historical population levels and they further report the huge decline is due to overfishing.

”This new data shows that the population of Pacific bluefin is a small fraction of what it used to be and is in danger of all but disappearing,” said Amanda Nickson, who directs global tuna conservation at the Pew Environment Group.

Last June, management of the Pacific bluefin just off the west coast of the Americas included catch limits for the species and the fishery was shut down in August when the limit was reached. No such catch limits exist out by Japan in the western Pacific and this is the only known spawning and nursery area for the bluefin tuna in the entire Pacific Ocean.

The bluefin tuna from the Atlantic coast population is today described as “fragile.” Atlantic bluefin stocks plummeted over 50 percent between 1997 and 2007, but there has been some expansion of those numbers in the past few years.

Worldwide, the Japanese market accounts for 80 percent of the Atlantic and Pacific bluefin tuna being caught today.

The Pew Environment Group is calling for science-based catch limits and major reductions in the catches of juvenile bluefin by implementing size limits across the Pacific Ocean and preventing fishing on bluefin spawning grounds.

That’s what is needed, not some wealthy yahoo spending $1.76 million on a single fish to parade through town and then cut up for sashimi to serve up for his high-roller customers.

Bimini wahoo smackdown

In keeping with today’s dubious theme, the Bimini Big Game Club Resort and Marina located in Alice Town, Bahamas will host a wahoo smackdown tournament Feb. 21 to 23.

Located right along the Gulf Stream, fishermen launching from Bimini can expect a reasonable shot at marlin, tuna, sailfish, swordfish, big grouper, barracuda and wahoo. Bonefish and permit are caught on the island’s shallow flats.

The Big Game Club hosts numerous major sportfishing tournaments every year and was reopened recently following completion of a $3.5 million renovation that included all guest rooms plus they added a conference center and a Hemingway’s Rum Bar and Social Lounge. No doubt it’s a very nice place.

The cost to enter the wahoo smackdown is $1,200, but that includes up to four anglers per boat.

Shawn Dillon will be the official tournament hostess helping with the final weigh-ins, presenting trophies, posing for pictures and signing autographs for participating teams.

Dillon grew up fishing with three brothers. She’s a surfer, a certified scuba diver and avid wakeboarder.

In fact, she likes the water so much they shot her February Playmate pictorial on a boat in the Florida Keys. Hey, that’s what I read in the tournament brochure. I wouldn’t know for sure.

Boating classes

Here’s something to make your summer boating experience safer, more fun and maybe even compliant with state law.

The Patuxent River Sail and Power Squadron will be conducting America’s Boating Course at 7 p.m. Feb. 5 at Trinity Lutheran Church, 46707 Shangri La Drive in Lexington Park.

The course costs $35. Call 301-475-8333 to register or for more information.

Once you pass, you’ll receive the required certificate of boating safety education to operate a mechanically propelled vessel on Maryland waters.

Simns honored

Last week, during the East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition in Ocean City, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin presented Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, as an Admiral of the Chesapeake.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) actually made Simns a Chesapeake Admiral and said, “I want to congratulate Larry for his outstanding leadership and the Maryland Watermen’s Association on their 40-year anniversary. Larry has served as the voice of the men and women who work tirelessly to ensure that our local restaurants, markets and citizens have consistent and quality local seafood.”

Simns has been the voice of the Maryland Watermen’s Association for as long as I can remember, and although we’re often on opposite sides of many fishery issues, I do respect his loyalty and unrelenting efforts to promote and protect commercial fishermen in Maryland. Congratulations, Mr. Simns.