Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Who takes the most fish?

If you speak to anyone over sixty about fishing, they will tell you about the 'good ol days when fish were a plenty". They will tell you how they used to go fishing for a morning and fill the boat with so many fish the boat could hardly float. When you read the books about the fishing in those days, you hear how guys would catch 100 shat in a day or 6 Garrick in a morning. There certainly were a lot more fish around then. So what happened, and who is responsible?


Well for starters there were not very many laws I the good ol days. Bag limits (how many fish you could take) were very generous or simply non existent. This resulted in a massive over fishing. Another aspect of problem has always been the illegal selling of fish. I've heard people speak out against over fishing, or Spearfishing, only to see the same people ask if your fish are for sale. Fish can only legally be purchased from a person who has a valid commercial fishing liscence. In other words, legal permission to sell the fish. By the way there is no such liscence for spear fishermen. You see the guy who catches lots of fish, needs a way to get rid of them. A market. If there is no market, he will not take too many fish, coz…well old fish smell bad.

So bad legislation and illegal activities contributed to the current situation.

There were also millions of tons of fish lost to pollution. Laws have come along way. Affluent and poison from factories have killed fish in rivers and the ocean for decades. Fortunately South Africa is coming in line with international standards, and pollutions effects are lessening.

One huge and un-measurable factor has been illegal netting by trawlers. Over the years there have been many cases of trawlers fishing illegally in our waters. These guys take a lot of fish. One net will hold about a thousands Spearfishing or rock and surf outings. These massive nets pulled behind boats are ruthless killers. They remove entire shoals of fish. Not only that but other fish are also caught in the net. Dolphins, turtles…well anything actually. These creatures of the deep will either die in the net, or be chopped up with all the other fish and sold to hungry starving people.

Long liners also take huge amounts of fish. They drop a line off the back of the boat. This line can run for many kilometers, a baited hook is placed every few meters. These lines are left for a while and then harvested. It works very well and hundreds of tons of fish are the result. Bill fish such as Marlin, Sailfish and Broad Bill are not immune from these traps.

Policing marine waters is very difficult and very expensive, making it very difficult to catch these culprits.


There has been a strong emphasis placed on "tag and release" over the last years. This is a positive initiative, to try and get anglers to release their fish. Each fish is measured and tagged. The information is sent off to a central info hub, and is used to try and better understand the ocean, and its inhabitants.

In a recent article in the "ESA" (Extreme Sports Angling- a brilliant S.A. fishing magazine), talked about tag and release. The editor who is a friend of mine was saying that if each Rock and Surf angler released one fish a year it would result in 400 000 more fish a year in our waters. If you consider that these fish would breed and continue to effect the ocean cycle, it would have a positive effect. The magazine it 'self is a reflection of the current changes and mindset in angling. The magazine encourages release of all fish caught. It talks about safe methods of handling and releasing catches. This type of information was totally void ten years ago. I must say it is good to see pictures of fish you know were released!


There has also been the ban of 4X4's on the beaches, and the introduction of marine reserves and sanctuaries. The amount of commercial licenses available have also decreased significantly over the years.


All this is resulting in some recovery in some sectors of fishing. Hopefully the trend will increase.


Of coarse you will always have those who take the whole conservation thing t to far. Wanting to stone of shoot every fisherman or spear fishermen is not the solution. There are many anglers and spear fishermen who only take what is needed or wanted to eat. This is a growing segment of anglers.


Here are some statistics I found concerning the removal of fish from our oceans. The list is a few years old but give a good indication of the trends.


Catches in Natal from Kosi bay to Durban per Annum.


64        Tons Spearfishing                                 2.3%

500      Tons Ski Boats                         18.6%

900      Tons Rock and Surf Angling                 33.7%

1100    Tons Commercial Fishing                      41.1%


Well now you know who is doing the damage!

PS please note who takes the least of the lot…