ENVIRONMENT: Something positive?

The Australian made Capstan Whirlaway 77 spinning reel. Image: John Newbery

THERE’S not much cheery to write about just now. Long planned trips to the NT, PNG or FNQ to chase barra or black bass have been deferred six or twelve months, with the hope that lodge operators and guides survive the financial impacts of COVID-19 and can honour their credit notes. And that our airlines are still operating. On the local front, traditional Easter fishing trips to the coast have had to be shelved altogether. In some states you can’t fish at all right now, but at least in others you can wet a line close to home as part of your exercise regime or in search of a feed.

But the tragedy currently engulfing Europe and the USA, and which earlier hit China, could have a side effect that leads to one positive outcome. The world’s most exploitative fishing fleets are largely currently tied up in port and could be for another year. As China must look at its future marketing and consumption of wildlife to prevent future virus crossovers, it too might examine how it exploits the world’s fish stocks in the post COVID-19 era. And other countries, like Spain, might do so as well.

For years concerned fisheries researchers have pleaded for a reduction in international fishing effort to allow time for over exploited fish stocks to recover. Even a one-year moratorium would help some key species. It could now happen. During World Wars 1 and 2 commercial fishing effort reduced dramatically, fish stocks rebuilt, and post-war catches were initially at record levels as a result.

It didn’t last though. Greed and mismanagement triumphed, often on a national or even continental level, in the case of the EU. The world’s fish stocks are now massively over exploited overall, despite some pretty good local management efforts, including Australia’s.

Now just maybe some of these shattered societies might reflect on their fishing behaviours, once the pandemic passes. Nation states may even put some better fisheries science-based regulations and procedures in place.

Wishful thinking? Maybe not, we need to have some hope in these awful times. Like for Australia to re-establish its manufacturing base to remove our absolute reliance on imported goods such as masks and respirators. Maybe our much lamented fishing reel industry could even come back.

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