OPINION: Something’s fishy about Wild Justice
6/12/2012 2:16 PM
In April, I watched in horror as NatGeo’s Wild Justice showed a gold prospector being busted for suction dredging in California. The show seemed like the California Department of Fish and Game’s version of Cops.
The prospector had been using a suction dredge to recover gold from the Yuba River. As I watched the DFG officer peering through his binoculars, hunting for the gold prospector who was underwater, I tried to imagine what trumped-up drama was going through the minds of the wannabe-Cops camera crew. Bleeped no less than five times, Warden Jerry Karnow gets a little carried away. I couldn’t help but bust out laughing when he tried to pass off two small tail-waggin’ Heinz 57 mutts as the miner’s “guard dogs” and makes a big deal about getting his feet wet.
The producers, I thought, had either been drinking too much green Kool-Aid or they were really hard up for material for this episode, which they called “Gold Fever.” Then, my jaw dropped in disbelief. I couldn’t believe my own eyes. Yet, there it was — stock footage of the same two dead fish shown in a previous Wild Justice episode — and a voiceover: “Banned in California, suction dredging disrupts local habitat by speeding up erosion and harming the fish population.”
If I hadn’t been so disgusted at what I was watching, it could have been tear-jerking hilarious. But, instead, I was madder than a mercury sniffin’, yellow-legged-frog killin’, desert tortoise stompin’, fish murderin’, donkey draggin’ gold prospector with a hole in my pan.
Firstly, suction dredging doesn’t harm fish or fish habitat, according to Oregon-based scientists Joe Greene and Claudia Wise — unless it’s done during spawning season, which is prohibited. Secondly, the only thing illegal about suction dredging is that it was done in California, because it’s legal in almost every state and was legal in the Golden State until 2009. Thirdly, after talking to several GPAA, LDMA and PLP members, including Dan Taylor of Route 66 Gold Miners, it was agreed — those were the same two dead fish shown in an earlier episode — stock footage.
As Karnow proceeds to dismantle his dredge and issue him a citation, the unnamed prospector, says to the warden, “Everybody else up here grows dope ... and then it’s like you know what? I’m just tryin’ to make a little honest livin’.”
Then, Karnow, an obvious drama queen who is loving the fact he’s on camera, tells the harmless older man, “If you’re not going to be cooperative, I’m going to take you to jail.”
The prospector, now changed out of his wetsuit and wearing a Gold Fever hat, says “Yes Sir.”
The segment, sandwiched between night-stalking deer poachers and surfers growing pot, was like watching an environmental sequel to George Orwell’s 1984 with Big Brother in a DFG uniform. Earlier in the episode, it seemed officers were more concerned surfers were pumping water from a stream and “stealing water from the state of California” than they were with other laws being broken
Bad boys, bad boys ... Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do ... When they come for you ... Bad boys, bad boys ...
See for yourself on Wild Justice footage
— BRAD JONES GPAA Editor / Content Director
As featured in the Pick & Shovel Gazette June/July 2012 issue