Neil Sims is standing on the deck of a 35-foot feed boat off the coast of Kona, Hawaii, staring at a dorsal fin slicing through the calm morning sea below. For the past hour we’ve been snorkeling around the submersible cages owned by his aquaculture company, Kona Blue Water Farms. The nets house nearly half a million fish, a species of yellowtail known as Kona Kampachi.

As we dawdled in the 200-foot-deep water, three bottle-nosed dolphins played around us like schoolchildren at a zoo. Now we’re watching a crew siphon food pellets into the cages. But the dorsal fin has everyone distracted. It doesn’t belong to a dolphin. Sims has heard there’s been a hungry tiger shark hanging around at feeding time. This leaves no doubt. “Do you fellas have a boat hook?” he asks in an Australian drawl that still runs thick after 18 years on the Big Island.

A boat hook – it should be defined for the nautically challenged – is little more than a curtain rod with a plastic “J” on the end. It’s used mainly to grab a small buoy when docking. There’s no sensible reason for Sims to want such a device now. We’re half a mile from shore and 400 yards from our own vessel. He arches an eyebrow in my direction. “So,” he asks, “you wanna swim for it?”

If ever there were a man who could stave off a man-eating shark with a curtain rod in a mad 400-yard swim for safety, Sims would be the one. It wouldn’t even be the biggest problem he’s trying to single-handedly tackle today. For example, the plight of the commercial fishing industry.

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