Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Marlin gets to the point
with swimming researcher

Let me start off by making it clear that I'm glad that whale researcher Mark Ferrari is alive and was not seriously injured. That said ... Hey, how 'bout that marlin!

In case you missed it, Ferrari was stabbed in the shoulder by a marlin last week while getting up close and personal with some false killer whales off West Maui. I always hated that term, "false killer whales," because it implies that there are such creatures as "killer whales" although these particular brutes aren't them. It's imprecise. All whales are "killers" in a way, since they have to kill to eat. They can't just mosey up to the Krill Kounter in an underwater Safeway. By that definition, everything that swims in the ocean is a killer. But you rarely hear oceanographers refer to "killer salmon" or "killer tuna" and even more rarely hear them refer to "false killer tuna."

If false killer whales are not killer whales, why bring the "killer" thing up at all? Why not just give them a name that correctly describes their status in the deep, like "fairly agreeable whales" or "kinda peaceful whales"?

Anyway, a pod of these large swimming mammals that are not killer whales were hanging out about three miles off Puamana hassling a marlin, which seems silly because marlin are among the most heavily armed beasts of the deep. Marlin come with standard-issue spears attached to the front of their faces -- a not-so-subtle way of telling other fish "back off, buster, or it's shish kebab time."

WITH ITS OFFENSIVE weapon always deployed, the marlin is the baddest fish in the ocean. They are agile, mobile and hostile. And even sharks don't mess with them.

They are, however, prized by beer-swilling "sport" fishermen who, from the safety and comfort of expensive cabin cruisers, trick them into biting hooks camouflaged to look like a tasty fish. Entire tournaments are dedicated to catching marlin, mainly because they look so impressive stuffed and mounted on the walls of seafood restaurants and seashore cocktail lounges.

They call fishing for marlin a "sport," but it isn't, really, mainly because only one side in the competition is in jeopardy. If fishermen would enter the ocean and take on the marlin hand-to-snout, THAT would be a sport.

Which is sort of what researcher Mark Ferrari did. He got in the water with a camera to record the encounter between a marlin and the mislabeled whales. Say what you will about the mental acuity of someone who hops in the water with an agitated 500-pound fish with a javelin for a nose, but Ferrari obviously isn't afraid to put his okole where his doctorate is.

The marlin raced at Ferrari and stabbed him in the shoulder, in a blow that brought a smile to millions of marlin mounted on walls everywhere. Again, I'm sorry Ferrari was hurt, but check the box scores: Marlin don't have many in the winners column. In fact, right now the score is something like Fishermen: 5,345,567; Marlin: 7.

Ferrari is recovering from his wound. No one knows what happened to the marlin after the attack. I'd like to think he got away from the nonhomicidal whales and retired to the Marlin Spike Bar (where Davey Jones is mounted on the wall over the cash register), where he had a couple of ice-cold mackerels and regaled his buddies about "the one that got away."

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail


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