To emphasize the organization's sensitivity, an accompanying PETA blog post was headlined "Spear-Fisher Becomes Live Bait" and, with an intentional wink to the audience, referred to the ad as "biting."
Not altogether surprisingly, this news was not especially well-received. In a remarkably understated response, Wickersham's mother said simply that the campaign was "over the top" before adding that she didn't wish to dignify it with any further comment. A local angler said that if he saw one of the billboards, he would "burn it down."
Contacted by the New York Daily News, PETA's Ashley Byrne pointed to the fact that "Americans alone kill 12 billion fish for food every year," before adding, "We are glad that Mr. Wickersham will be OK. We hope that after this painful and horrible experience, he and other fishermen will consider the pain that fish feel, and we hope they will consider taking up another pastime."
That didn't go down too well, either.
"If you want to lead a campaign saying humans should value and protect the natural environment and use resources more wisely, or that we should cause less suffering, I'm onboard with that," David Shiffman, a shark conservation biologist and blogger who has launched a Twitter campaign urging PETA to withdraw the ad, told Discovery News. "But if you want to argue that humans and fish are somehow morally equivalent, stay the hell away from my family."