Coast KZN

25 Aug 2016

Anglers aid research to save fish stocks

Tony Carnie (The Mercury)

Ferdie Botha about to release a white steenbras he caught near the Sundays River off Port Elizabeth.

Some fishermen are known for their propensity to spin tall tales about “the one that got away”.

This tale is about more than 12 000 fish that were hooked by anglers off the South African coastline last year and then released – deliberately – by thousands of anglers who are part of a research and conservation project stretching back more than three decades. All told, more than 298 000 fish have been released to fight another day since the project started in Durban in 1984 – including one fish caught and released at least nine times.

Known as the Oceanographic Research Institute Co-operative Fish Tagging Project, the objective is to encourage fishermen to release their catches and insert a special marker tag on the fish – partly to ensure that the seas are not overfished, and partly to help scientists gather more data about the movement patterns, growth rates and other facts about local fish species.
Writing in the latest issue of Tagging News, ORI tagging officer Stuart Dunlop reported that 12 174 fish were tagged and released last year by more than 5 580 anglers involved in the project.
The releases made last year mean that 298 068 fish have been caught, tagged and released since the project started.
Latest data showed that Werner Coetzee of Port Elizabeth was the top tagger for last year, having hooked and released 311 fish during 2015.
Despite this achievement, Coetzee still has quite a way to go to top the record set by Western Cape angler Simon Walker, who personally has tagged and released 5 012 fish – and also recaptured 346 previously tagged fish.
Writing in the same newsletter, Port Elizabeth angler Brendan O’Connell said he had learnt some painful lessons while tagging and releasing 324 fish.
Having had his fingers punctured numerous times by the razor-sharp spines and gill-rakers of several of these fish, O’Connell advised fellow anglers to wear a glove and to ensure that fish were returned to the water as soon as possible after tagging.
“One red steenbrass I remember in particular, I nicknamed ‘Fangs’, as he tagged me with a good puncture wound on the top of my finger.
“I have since recaught him twice … One wonders how long a fish like this would last in a world without limits set by informed scientists.
“The crux of the matter is that without the regulators, our track record is such that we (humankind) will fish the sea to extinction.”


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