OPINION: The glass half full

YEAH, some of the no-rec zoning decisions in the proposed Commonwealth marine parks look a bit suspect, and we’ve already lost some access in state-controlled waters, and commercial operators appear to get preferential treatment in some states, and bag limits are going down and size limits up…

But, and it’s a big but, we’ve still got plenty of fish to catch, and lots of access, and reasonable licence fees. And a good chunk of fee revenue goes into restocking programs, fishing infrastructure such as ramps and cleaning tables and fishing education. Next time you’re feeling outraged by a government decision, think about how anglers fare in a few other western democracies.

In Switzerland, legislation introduced in 2009 at the urging of animal rights activists requires that all fish must be killed immediately after capture with a sharp blow to the head with a blunt instrument. You’re prohibited from going fishing with the “intention” to release fish. Barbed hooks and live bait are not permitted. One poor punter was prosecuted recently for animal cruelty for taking too long to play and land a large pike … 10 minutes … and describing the fight on his blog page. At least he got off…

In Germany, no catch & release or keeper nets are permitted … too “stressful” for the fish. You need a fishing licence for all waters. To get the licence, you must pass a sport fishing exam after completing 30-40 hours of supervised fishing lessons, including sessions on relevant legislation covering fish, animal and nature protection. If you pass, you buy your official fishing licence from the local town hall. Then, if you’re fishing in fresh water, you buy an additional local permit for the water you want to fish from a tackle shop or club.

In the UK, access to the best wild river fishing for salmon or trout happens (a) when you inherit a title and river frontage that goes with it or (b) you’re very rich and can “hire” a stretch of water for a week or two for some thousands of pounds. Or, as you might have seen in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, you’re a wealthy foreign resident or one of his or her political friends. Otherwise it’s coarse or stocked impoundment fishing for UK freshwater anglers.

While there have been some great sportfishing species comebacks in the USA in recent years, in Texas you’re still only allowed to keep a maximum of two red drum (their jewfish equivalent) over 28 inches (about 75 cm) per year. You get one tag for a red drum with your annual licence and you can purchase one additional for $3. They have to be attached to individual fish and can’t be swapped or given away.

So actually, the state of play for Australian anglers doesn’t look too bad by comparison. But personally, I won’t be voting Green or donating to PETA anytime soon.

John Newbery is Fishing World’s environment editor.

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