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Moreover, the sport has been the subject of widespread betting. By means of high-powered radio equipment, the Arab princes would announce to waiting bookies throughout the Middle East which of the numbered falcons had bagged the most birds.
In the study that led to the law protecting the great bustard, passed in 1972, a specialist called in by the Indian government had said, "The birds are fragile enough without being hunted. They suffer an extremely low reproduction rate and generally lay only one egg a year, and they suffer from habitat destruction, poaching and disturbance.
"The Arabian nobles think of falconry as a culturally central sport. But it's badly distorted when they show up in India in motor caravans to continue the slaughter."
Charles and Katie Crowe say they should have smelled something fishy after she boated a 7'2" sailfish two weeks ago on a charter boat out of Miami Beach. "It did seem kind of lifeless when we got it on the boat," says Crowe, a Dallas contractor in for the Super Bowl. Lifeless was right. The fish had been dead at least a day before Mrs. Crowe "caught" it.
Moments before the "strike" a team of Miami Herald observers, who had been tipped off, watched from a nearby boat while the mate of the Therapy IV slipped forward to the bow of the boat, out of sight of the anglers in the cockpit, attached the hitherto concealed fish to Mrs. Crowe's line, eased it into the water, gave it time to stream astern, then yelled, "We've got one!" The "fight" was on. By keeping the boat in motion, Captain Jack Wiggins produced the effect of a 20-minute battle.
Mrs. Crowe agreed to have the fish mounted. The cost would have been $431, with $140 going to Wiggins and the mate—which explains the deceit. A charter crew usually gets a 30% share of the mount money—the $5-per-inch fee for taxidermy—paid by the angler.
"They were pushing us real hard about getting the fish mounted if she caught one," says Crowe. "My wife was the only one of our party who'd never gotten a billfish. I recall the mate was out of sight for a while. He said he had to make a phone call or something."
Captain Wiggins was suspended from taking part in the annual Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament after ichthyologist Charles Getter certified that the fish had been dead before it was reeled in. Back in Texas, Crowe put a stop on the $120 taxidermy deposit check. "I don't want to have a fraudulent catch mounted," he said. But he added that he wouldn't try to recover his $60 portion of the charter fee or the $20 tip he gave the mate.
Said Elwood Harry, President of the International Game Fish Association, "One possible answer to the problem is some sort of licensing. Then when something like this comes up you could put them out of business."