Friday, March 30, 2012

Catching fish with LSD, 1964: "A dreamy new era for fish"

BoingBoing online -- always a fun site -- reports that in its March 30,1964 issue, Sports Illustrated profiled the efforts of marine biologist Howard Loeb to dose fish with LSD, in hopes that they would be easier to catch and thereby helping remove so-called "trash fish" from the larger market supply. Apparently the side-effects of eating tripping fish weren't at issue; Loeb is quoted in the article saying that he liked to work on "the fun stuff," including pond-shockers and poison baits, for commercial use.

The current media coverage of genetically-altered salmon ready for the dinner table seems to pale into insignificance when a reader considers that it was perfectly legal (if somewhat wacky) "to use LSD-25, a hallucinogenic drug derived from d-lysergic acid" as a commercial application, or that the phrase appears in a Sports Illustrated article in 1964. But then again, LSD wasn't put on the Federal schedule of illegal drugs until 1967. Here's an excerpt from the BoingBoing article, with a link to the full 1964 SI article there.

... An imaginative ex-paratrooper who has been in fish biology for 16 of his 42 years, Loeb often comes up with the unusual, working on what he calls "the fun stuff—the thing that nobody knows anything about." He devised the electric pond-shocker that conservation workers use to obtain fish samples. He has worked on selective poison baits for carp, a trash fish that has ruined many game-fish waters in New York and other states, and is assisting an associate, Bill Kelly, in working on long-lasting dyes for marking trout.

Several years ago Dr. Harold A. Abramson, Director of Psychiatric Research at South Oaks Psychiatric Hospital in Amityville, N.Y., chanced to read of Loeb's work on carp poisons, and he offered a suggestion: use LSD-25, a hallucinogenic drug derived from d-lysergic acid, originally found in the ergot fungus that grows on rye...

If LSD could work on carp and other fish, the opportunities were unlimited for conservation authorities and sportsmen. For example, a pond loaded with carp poses problems. If any of the standard chemicals, such as rotenone, are used, all the fish, both carp and game fish, usually die, aquatic insects suffer and the poison sometimes lingers for months, preventing the restocking of game fish. But if a chemical could cause all the fish to surface for several hours without killing them, then the undesirable fish could be picked out and the game fish left to prosper.

Again, a surfacing chemical would enable biologists to take a highly accurate fish census of a body of water without harming a fin. A low-flying plane could photograph a treated body of water, and biologists, interpreting the pictures, could get a count of species and populations. ...

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