Taking only what is needed, careful handling, and leaving only footsteps
With over four million recreational fishers in Australia it is important to ensure that we interact sustainably with fish stocks and waterways. The reality is that recreational fishers can exert a lot of effort on some fish species, and we need to recognise this potential, and manage our fishing practices so as to minimise potential impacts.
The national recreational fishing survey estimated that rec fishos around Australia caught around 60 million finfish between May 2000 and April 2001. A number of researchers have also shown that the recreational catch for species such as Snapper, Yellowfin bream, Tailor and King George Whiting can exceed the commercial harvest.
Even when catch and release fishing it is vital that we apply best practice techniques to ensure they have a maximum chance of survival. Use of knotless landing nets, circle hooks and/or barbless hooks, heavier tackle so as to reduce fighting times, and leaving deeply embedded hooks in place when releasing fish all play a part in maximising survival.
And it is important to remember that sustainable fishing is about more than taking only what we need too. With the large volume of fishing line, bait bags and tackle purchased each year it is incredibly important that we minimise the amount of discarded fishing refuse entering natural ecosystems. Biodegradable products such as fishing lines, lures and plastic bags are a really good start to help ensure that any unintentionally lost rubbish doesn’t hang around to entangle wildlife, but we also need to ensure that we take any waste with us when we leave a fishing spot, whether biodegradeable or not, and even remove rubbish left by other careless people to keep our waterways pristine and healthy.
Figure 1 Bioline – the first biodegradable fishing line available in Australia and winner of the best environmentally friendly product at the 2009 AFTA Tackle Trade Show (Source: Digsfish Services).
Figure 2: A variety of soft plastic lures after 3 months of composting (left), and 2 years of composting (right) Source: Digsfish Services.