Environment News: CR&R – catch, revive & release

WALKING along a Jervis Bay beach the week before Christmas we spotted a couple of vehicles with boats in tow getting ready to beach haul a section. What’s wrong with that picture? Well, it’s certainly not illegal, even though the beach in question is a Habitat Protection Zone in Jervis Bay Marine Park, with a Sanctuary Zone at one end, and no-one other than a couple of licensed beach haulers are allowed to drive their vehicles onto the sand. And holiday makers were about to descend on the area, with the reasonable expectation they might get a few whiting, bream and flatties during their stay. Reports are the fishing was very quiet there over Christmas, as it always is after a concerted hit by the haulers.

But a general rant against beach haulers, and the government agencies that continue to sanction it, isn’t the main point of this piece. Although coming back along the beach just as the haulers were departing to find (1) a very fat, contented pelican who’d helped itself to the undersized bream and whiting “by-catch” released into the shallows and (2) half a dozen small stingrays flopping on the edge of the tide line where they’d been discarded makes me think a rant might be justified. Instead I’ll write about the middle “R” in CR&R….revive.

Now we spent 10 minutes or so with bits of driftwood flipping the rays back into deeper water … all but one seemed to swim off OK. But I couldn’t get too cranky with the pros as a couple of weeks before I saw an older angler on the beach with a catch of good whiting (and a few undersized bream) surrounded by a few half-dead rays, separated from their tails. Why’d you do that, I asked? “I have to cut off their tails to get my hook back or I’ll get spiked,” was the answer.

So again, we anglers can be our own worst enemies. To save a few 20 cent hooks this guy kills a bunch of fish and gives any environmentally aware, non-angling person who witnesses this an excuse to think that anglers are redneck yobbos.

Overseas magazines are now talking about CR&R fishing rather than just C&R, with an emphasis on “revive”. Our fishing media have been very good, generally speaking, on stressing the need to revive large fish including barra, mulloway, Murray cod and billfish before release. But it’s now time to extend the concept to all the fish we intend to release rather than eat. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a blue groper or a shovelnose shark; it’s got a place in the ecosystem and knocking it about before releasing it is probably just as bad as killing it outright. All anglers should learn and practice proper fish handling methods, and model this behaviour for the kids coming through … well, at least the ones not sitting in front of computers all day trying to “kill” things in cyberspace.

The May issue of Fisho will report in more detail on some positive developments: the IGFA move to allow measurement rather than weighing in some gamefish categories and results of studies on handling popular Australian fish such as luderick (blackfish).
For now, if you see bad handling practice by some of our angling “colleagues”, at least try and “educate” the perpetrator, without, of course, getting into a blue.

John Newbery is Environment Editor for Fishing World.

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