A drop of water combined with several others can make up a whole ocean. In the same way, the efforts of one person can spread an ever lasting effect on the whole world. In the first part of the interview we focused on Derek Dsouza the passionate angler and already you must be wondering, what else could be possibly remaining? However, Derek is not just a passionate angler, but also a person who believes in promoting and protecting at the same time. Ranging from conducting children’s camps, being part of conservation efforts in organisations like AIGFA, Wildlife Association of South India, Mahseer Trust, Angler Association of Nagaland, Ernakulam Anglers Club, promoting angling equipment through his company Pelagic Tribe with razor sharp focus on quality and price, bringing international attention to angling in India… the list is long. Sandeep Shetty, Co-Founder and CEO of Livingit, continues the interview with Derek to find out his activities in Angling beyond a passion. Read on!
SS: Could you elaborate on the workshops that you conduct, as earlier you had mentioned about teaching kids and others about angling and its aspects? Looking at your Facebook posts, it seems you enjoy teaching children the most.
DEREK: The first thing is that there are a lot of children today who don’t go outdoors, but spend a lot of time watching TV and on their mobile phones, whereas we spent most of our childhood outside our homes. Today as it is opposite, parents have to make a lot of efforts to send their children outside. Angling does exactly that. It takes them outside, near water bodies and they forget about everything else. The thing is, for me to educate a person to become environment conscious today is more difficult if he or she is an adult. It has to come from within, and therefore it has to be embedded very early and that is why I focus on children. When a child catches her first fish and releases it, it automatically gets embedded within her that this fish needs to be released and she practices it. It is not by the virtue of it being a good practice in angling but by the virtue that protecting wildlife and environment is good. Next time she teaches it in her school or in her neighbourhood and that is how other people become aware.
I have a lot of children who come back to the camps and almost 65% of them go and buy a rod and reel after the camp and go out and attempt to catch a fish with their family. Angling is also a great family bonding activity as it is like a team effort with activities like setting up the equipment, to catching a fish to landing and then releasing it.
(You can find some great tips to take your children out for fishing here )
SS: Despite this, angling is often looked down upon for various reasons like harm to fish, so what is your take on ethical angling and how can we, as anglers push it further?
DEREK : While teaching angling, you empower the person with knowledge, like which tool to use, which fish to catch in which area, and certain techniques, which can actually outdo a regular fisherman. So if I give you knowledge on a certain species or how to catch, what to use and how the fish behaves then I am empowering you with knowledge. Now this knowledge can be abused by the virtue of simply learning and applying, and your catching number will triple. If you abuse that power then you are creating more destruction. Ethical angling is taking what is necessary. Just because you can catch twenty fishes doesn’t mean you have to take all of them. That’s where the sense of responsibility comes in otherwise, you will destroy your own field. There is only so much that a pond can have and being an angler one must think and act towards not exploiting it, but protecting it. The second thing is to use the right equipment to minimise damage to the fish like using barbless hooks, the right way to hold the fish, taking the picture inside the water body or next to it so that the fish can be released immediately and so on.
SS: So is it just about stopping at one or two or ‘Catch and Release’?
DEREK : Catch and release is something that I profess for the endangered and endemic species of our country or any other place, as a matter of fact, where you are fishing. Catch and release is very important. I agree not everybody can do that because it doesn’t make any sense for everyone but being responsible is to understand what is necessary. You can take as many invasive species like Tilapia and African Catfish as you want because it’s not endangered and it is destroying other species, but for a species like Mahseer or Malabar Snakehead, I expect you to release each one that you catch. It is your duty to protect it and release it without any doubt.
SS: Can you tell us about your initiatives in Ethical angling and Catch & Release.
DEREK: I am trying to promote the concept of catch and release. I also believe that once you start keeping the fish you lose the habit of releasing it. However, when you release a fish, the feeling which you get is very different and very addictive and once you start doing it, there’s no escape. The commercial side of our organization sponsors a lot of competitions. One of the key rules is that it has to be a Catch and Release competition. when teaching catch and release to local anglers we have talks and discussions, so that they understand why we promote conservation. We have been successful in introducing this to people who had no concept of releasing the fish back, which is very encouraging. I am also a part of organizations like AIGFA’s, AAN, EAC, IGFA and their conservation initiatives. One key organization is the Mahseer Trust where I am actively working with scientists from the Kerela Institute of Fisheries and Ocean Studies so that we can have enough information about Mahseer and all its sub species and why they need to be protected. Apart from that I also do a lot of talks and seminars within the government and outside to take conservation to the next level.
SS: So, what according to you are the biggest challenges here and how do you plan to overcome them?
DEREK: In terms of conservation, the biggest problem is awareness. Very less people are aware or understand why things need to be done. Once they are aware, it will be easier to convince them to practice catch and release. It’s a problem with sports anglers as well as with local anglers and government authorities. We are trying to increase awareness through various means as mentioned before like Angling competitions, Young Angler’s training camps, seminars and talks.
SS: Does the government work towards the same endeavour as you or is it a challenge itself?
DEREK: To a large extent, in states where angling has good revenue, they are pro angling and they have strict rules and regulations. But there are other states as well, especially in the south where we have a lot of problems, as they don’t understand about the fish and its environment. So I work with a lot of fisheries department and fisheries school and try to educate them from an angling perspective.
SS: Your company Pelagic Tribe seems to be setting a completely new trend in the world of angling, please tell us more about your experience in commercial angling?
DERE K: Pelagic Tribe is a commercial organization, which we started a few years back. There were two reasons for which we started the Pelagic Tribe. One is to try and get good quality equipment at reasonable price so that the anglers don’t have to pay a huge price locally or importing them from abroad and the second reason is to give them the right guidance regarding equipment and backing it with the support of parts and services to make sure the angler is happy. We are probably the only company in India which ensures that parts replacement is fastest for our products.
SS: Does it seem that the angling scene in India is coming up with Pelagic Tribe’s entry in the market?
DEREK: Yes, tremendous jump. The job, which we have done in one year, proves that it’s growing and anglers are happy that they are getting the equipment they want and there’s somebody to offer service for that. We’ve kind of disrupted the market in India from the traditional businessmen. Most of the distributors are not anglers and they sell the equipment for pure profit. It doesn’t matter whether they are giving you the right stuff as long as they making their money. Whereas, our profit margins are very basic and equal for all products. We also recommend the right thing. This has actually helped us grow. A recent example is what we did to introduce a reel called the Conquest. We did a market research and arrived at the exact spec and price point for a reel that an angler in India wanted. Our research was so thorough that in two and a half months we sold-out the reels. The next product we are evaluating to bring is a rod which will take all the abuse by anglers in India and come at an effective price.
SS: International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) recently made you a part of their International committee. Tell us more about it.
Derek: Yes, this is a recent development. IGFA is to Angling like FIFA is to Football. This is important as it puts India on the international map of sport-angling and we are now officially recognized by the world’s foremost body on angling as one of the key places in the world for angling. As a part of the committee, I have to work towards increasing the presence of IGFA in India and also work along the IGFA in conservation efforts for India’s iconic fish species.
SS: With so many things happening, is angling your full-time profession or do you pursue something else as well?
DEREK: My actual career is that of an IT Professional. In the past, I have held various positions in different companies in the IT domain. Today I work as a consultant and I mentor startups. It’s not easy as I must juggle between regular work and Angling related activities and I guess it will probably take 3 to 4 years for my angling initiatives to give me financially stability so that I can focus 100 percent on it.
SS. Any message or advice to budding anglers and the angling community?
DEREK: Yes… Fish responsibly!
Here is a video made by Derek and his team to bring awareness about India’s iconic fish ‘The Mighty Mahseer’.
Derek Dsouza has proven that it is possible to jump between two worlds and balance your profession as well as your passion; one just needs to find out that one door which links them both. A journey that started more than a decade ago has now become an inspiration to a lot of people. At the same time, he is also the perfect example to show that it’s not enough to be passionate, but also to contribute towards the activity that you are so passionate about.
If you have missed the first part of the interview with Derek Dsouza, you can read it here .