I learned to fish when I was very young. I used to use raw hot dogs as bait while sitting on the dock of a family member’s house in South Florida. I always saw fishing as a fun mystery. I never knew what fish I was going to catch and the surprise was just so exciting to anticipate. I have always loved fish and all sea life, which was ironically part of my fascination with fishing. I was told that the fish would be okay when he was set back into the water. I had no idea what damage I was actually doing.
My love for fish started at four-years-old, when a neighbor invited my mom and me to visit her aquarium shop. I got to see so many fish and even held a starfish. It was fascinating. After visiting, my mom bought me my first two companion fish, whom I lovingly named “Pen” and “Soggy.” Soon, I learned there are many different kinds of fish and I was amazed by all of them, especially when I learned of the deep sea fish!
My journey to truly valuing sea life began when I went deep sea fishing as a senior in high school. It was the first time I had ever been around fish that were not released right after and it was so upsetting to see them suffocating on the boat. I felt lucky when I caught a little shark because nobody wanted to eat him.
In college, I invested in a 46 gallon saltwater aquarium. I had wanted a clown fish my whole life and was ready to make it happen. Little did I know, that I would actually fall in love with my Bangaii Cardinal fish over any of my other sea friends. His name was Septer and he had the greatest personality. I would fall asleep watching him swim around and he was always so happy to greet me even when it wasn’t meal time. He became one of my best friends and I was really bonded to him.
Bonding with Septer made me make the connection between fish we love and fish we eat. This is why years before I ever even thought about going vegan, I gave up eating all sea life. I began the mentality of, “Why would I eat my pets or their friends?” Later, I added, “Why love one and eat the other?” This thought process led me to go vegan in 2012 and to eventually start my own animal rights nonprofit organization in 2014. I also gave up keeping fish, knowing how much they suffer without being in the ocean. However, starting a fish rescue is still on my bucket list.
I am proud of the changes I have made and that I have been able to expand my love of fish to encompass all sea life. My actions have influenced many others who have sworn off of fishing, supporting attractions that exploit sea life, and buying fish for aquariums from stores. I will always love fish and I will always be here to speak out for their well being.