‘Monster Fish’ host shares message of conservation
Hogan talks about role fish play in ecosystem
Zeb Hogan, host of National Geographic’s “Monster Fish,” guest lectured Tuesday to McNeese State University biology students ahead of his Banners Series presentation that night.
As the host of “Monster Fish,” Hogan said he travels around the world studying the world’s largest fish, which are also some of the most endangered of their species.
He said these mega fish weigh hundreds of pounds and can be incredibly long.
Hogan said most of the fish he studies are “right on the brink of extinction.” This is especially troubling news for delicate ecosystems because, as he explained to the class, “keeping large fish alive helps to preserve smaller fish populations.”
He showcased videos and photos of his research, which centers around gathering appropriate data and information about the fish in order to increase conservation efforts. His field work includes catching, tagging and releasing the “monster fish” so they can be tracked in order to better understand their life cycle.
He said Louisiana is home to the alligator gar fish, which is a mega fish that isn’t endangered. The gar can grow up to 200 pounds and can live for up to 80 years.
Hogan attributed the species’ success to Louisiana’s plentiful wetland conditions, which make an ideal habitat for the fish to thrive in.
Hogan said his travels take him to remote parts of the world that do not have the same organized game regulations like Louisiana and other parts of the United States. Therefore, in addition to utilizing scientific measures and procedures, he relies on local knowledge from multiple generations of fisherman to help him understand the makeup and balance of various ecosystems.
While working and studying with locals, Hogan said he is able to share the message of conservation with communities, but “while they are friendly and willing to help” it is difficult for ideas like catch and release to catch on in cultures where fishing is a primary source of income.
Hogan said he hopes that shows like “Monster Fish” will allow his work to live on after him by spurring young people toward careers in worldwide wildlife research and conservation.
Hogan said one of the primary goals of his research is to get society thinking about mega fish, and the necessity of their survival, in the same way that they think about animals such as the giant panda, which has made it off of the endangered species list due to increased conservation efforts. He said it is important that humans learn to protect mega fish habitats and learn the role that the fish play within an ecosystem; otherwise, these animals can get out of hand or can become extinct all together.
“Humans turn mega fish into monsters,” Hogan warned.
In addition to taking questions from the class, Hogan ended the lecture by giving the students personal guidance on how to continue their studies beyond the classroom. Many of the students said they assumed their studies would end with working for the Wildlife and Fisheries Department but Hogan said, “Don’t limit yourself. There’s so much out there.”
Student Christina Keathley said her main take-away from the lecture was that.
“I never realized how many opportunities there are out there beyond the United States to study wildlife,” she said.
Hogan also gave the students in-depth advice on how to secure funding for field research from top-level entities such as National Geographic and the National Science Foundation, both of which help fund his Monster Fish Project.