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Gone Fishing – But For How Long?

There is nothing quite like an angling outing on a balmy winter’s morning in KwaZulu-Natal. But if you would like to still share this pleasure with your children and their children in future, consider what it takes to be a responsible angler.

More than a million South Africans go fishing just for fun. But while the number of recreational anglers has increased dramatically, the same cannot be said for our wild fish stocks.

According to a recent survey on recreational fishing, anglers spend up to 50 days a year indulging their hobby – and they like nothing better than to spend a week off fishing with their mates.

It is all good fun, but not all fishing practices are good for the ocean. There are several fish species that recreational anglers may catch legally with a permit, but because some of these, such as red stumpnose, are in trouble, it is best to practice catch and release.

Rock & Surf Anglers. Photo: Peter Chadwick

Rock & Surf Anglers. Photo: Peter Chadwick

Some fish caught with recreational fishing licences are being sold to restaurants illegally. And many anglers confess to violations, from fishing without permits to keeping undersized and prohibited fish species. Another major problem is discarded fishing lines and plastic which can entangle, maim and kill marine life.

The Responsible Angler

To encourage sustainable practices, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has published a useful guide last year. Entitled The Responsible Angler: Guidelines for responsible recreational fishing in South Africa, it looks at how to reverse these endangering trends.

Topics include catch limits, permits, the best hooks to use for minimum damage, and humane catch-and-release methods.

The guide also outlines how anglers can contribute to collective scientific knowledge by recording and sharing their catch information.

Beach fishing

WWF South Africa’s Junaid Francis comments, “We know that recreational angling is passed down through the generations – most anglers say they first started fishing before the age of 10.

“For our children’s children to continue to enjoy this pastime, we need to ensure that recreational fishing is practiced responsibly.” Anglers have a key role to play in reversing the decline in fish stocks, she says, which is why WWF has made this guide available.

To be a responsible angler, follow these golden rules:

Keep it Legal

Always have a valid recreational angling permit, adhere to regulations, use legal roads and tracks when accessing fishing areas, and report illegal activities such as environmental damage and pollution.

Minimise Harm

Handle all species for release in a way that ensures their best chance of survival.

If you are going to retain fish, then kill them quickly and humanely to ensure the least amount of suffering. And use equipment and tackle that minimise stress and injury.

Be a Citizen Scientist

By recording details of your catch, you can help to gather information on the status of marine resources and the impacts of angling on species. Also, you should embrace recommendations from informed researchers and fishery managers.

Catch and release fishing. Photo: Peter Chadwick

Catch and release fishing. Photo: Peter Chadwick

Leave Only Footprints

Dispose of fishing line and plastics in an appropriate manner, and leave the environment and fishing area in the same or a better condition than when you arrived.

Encourage Best Practice

In terms of recreational licences, it is illegal to sell the fish that you have caught. To aid conservation, collect bait with the minimum disturbance to the environment, and act responsibly to minimise the impact on marine resources.

Lead By Example

Be a role model to other anglers. You can educate others – especially youngsters – on sustainable fishing practices. Be considerate of other legitimate marine users.

See fishforlife.co.za to download a full copy of the guide.

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