Comment: Want To Take A Marlin? Well, You Pay For It

THE blogs, comments and news articles regarding marlin that Fisho has published online recently have attracted an array of comments, opinions and ideas from readers. I’d like to personally thank all of you out there who have taken the time to contribute to this important debate. It’s vital that we all have input to the future management of our fisheries, especially with “iconic” species such as marlin.

While not all anglers fish for marlin, it’s my opinion that management decisions about these “prestige fish” ultimately trickle down to the more common species that form the mainstay of recreational fishing in this country. For example, if marlin are officially recognised by government as being a species of considerable economic and social worth to the community as a recreational target, and are subsequently declared off limits to commercial exploitation, it’s not hard to argue that more common species like bream, jewfish, snapper, kingies and so on are of equal and probably more value as rec-only as well.

But we are jumping the gun here. What we need to achieve initially is political and community awareness of the environmental, economic and social importance of our great gamefish as recreational-only species.

Last week I put forward an idea that anglers should take the initiative here and self-regulate a mandatory Catch & Release policy for all billfish. Some really interesting and diverse comments came from a number of readers regarding this idea, and I again thank you all for taking the time to make your voices heard.

I personally think a universal C&R policy would send a strong and positive message to government, environment groups and the community at large that we as anglers are taking a proactive and responsible stance towards our billfish fisheries. While I have no personal problem with taking a marlin – as detailed in my piece last week I have in the past knocked a couple on the head and have filled my freezer with marlin steaks – I think that the long-term PR benefits of a self-imposed “no take” regulation are worth considering.
But I also realise that some anglers may wish to take a marlin for a record, for bragging rights, for a trophy or for food. Striped marlin in particular aren’t bad to eat and after all catching fish to eat is the primary reason for fishing.

So what about if we instigate a “permit” system for anglers who wish to take a marlin? This happens in the US for the tarpon fishery. An angler wishing to take a record ‘poon pays for a permit that allows him/her to take the fish. This is all carefully monitored and recorded so that fish stock viability can be measured and controlled. Tarpon are recognised as a hugely valuable sportfish in the States. Anglers chasing these amazing fish contribute significant revenue to the areas such as Islamorada in Florida. The vast majority of tarpon are released but if an angler wishes to take one, he/she can. They just have to pay for it.

A similar program could easily be introduced here for marlin. If you want to take a marlin to weigh in at a comp, then you sign up for a permit. If you get a fish worth weighing, you take it and pay for the privilege. Same goes if you want to take a fish to eat or to get made into a trophy for your living room wall.
I’m thinking a permit for marlin would be worth a couple of hundred bucks. The system would be managed by the state Fisheries Departments and all money raised would go directly into billfish research programs.
If you simply want to practice C&R for your marlin, no probs. You don’t need a permit. Just proceed as you would normally and enjoy the unique pleasures associated with catching & releasing these magnificent gamefish.

Sure, this permit would be a major pain in the arse for anglers wishing to take a marlin. But that’s the point. We don’t want marlin being killed any more. Anyway, a serious gamefisherman who catches a record marlin won’t baulk at paying an extra $200 for the chance to get his/her name in the record books. Same goes for an angler who weighs a winning fish at a tournament. And $200 is still good value if you want to take a fish for the table. It works out at about $2.50 a kilo based on an 80-kilo marlin.

The point of all this is to do with sending a message to our politicians and fisheries managers. That message is that we have taken a responsible attitude to these fish. Also that we apply a monetary value to them if we wish to take them and by doing so are contributing to future management of the species. Above all, however, the message that we would be sending to the decision makers is that we respect and value these fish.
This sort of proactive attitude, combined with the data relating to the enormous economic value of billfish as a recreational fishery, would doubtless carry a great deal of political weight.

As such, it is worth considering. So what do you think?

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