|Researchers participate at RASSPL Africa Nationals 2014
By Paul Cowley
South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB)
A research team from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Rhodes University and the Oceanographic Research Institute were invited to participate at the RASSPL Africa’s national fish competition hosted along the Port Alfred coastline. This event with almost 100 participants provided us with an opportunity to tag fish caught during the competition. We had two objectives. Firstly to tag most suitably sized fish with conventional plastic dart tags provided by the Oceanographic Research Institute as part of the National Tagging Project and secondly to tag adult white steenbras and dusky kob with acoustic transmitters. The latter involved surgically implanting the transmitter inside the body cavity and once released it allows us the track their coastal movements for multiple years as the tagged fish move past data-logging receivers moored around our coastline.
All in all it was a very successful event. We managed to tag 87 fish with ORI tags, of which 32 were bronze bream. We also tagged 7 white steenbras with acoustic transmitters and we look forward to finding out what these fish do over the next few years. Also during the competition an angler recaptured a raggedtooth shark that was tagged on 27 December 2010 at Riet point. Amazingly this shark was recaptured at the same location!
Besides the fantastic opportunity to collect research data and tag fish this event provided us with opportunity to meet fishermen and share experiences. I think that it is important for researchers to interact with public and keep them informed of their research findings, and also learn from the anglers who witness many things that we don’t hear about.
I firmly believe that RASSPL Africa have adopted the right philosophy with respect to fishing competitions. The emphasis of typically targeting the biggest and most fish has been replaced by integrating a species approach. This means that fishing pressure is spread over a lot more species not just large fish species. It was wonderful to see anglers trying to target small fish that are more resilient in the fishery, such as blacktail and even barble, to collect competition points. Most importantly, RASSPL Africa adopted a 100% Catch and Release approach, which means that no fish are killed during the competition. Although C & R angling competitions can be benign, this is only achieved if captured fish are handled and treated well prior to being released. The organisers of this event were aware of need to insure the well-being of captured fish and issued every participant with a large rectangular bucket. The rules of the competition made it mandatory for the anglers to use the bucket. The bucket had to be filled with water at all times and as soon as a fish came out of the water it had to be placed in the bucket. After which the fish was photographed, measured and released. Although it took some getting used to, many anglers commented on the success of this approach and clearly observed the benefits of keeping the fish ‘in water’ before being released. I think this is the first time this approach has been adopted at a rock and surf competition in South Africa and sincerely hope to see that organisers of similar events follow suit. Furthermore, a cameraman from GT Productions was present at the competition and hopefully once this event is televised on an Inside Angling show it will provide the momentum for all fishing competitions to adopt a truly benign approach to competitive angling. Our fishery resources deserve this respect!
The success of this event also relies on sponsorship support. The winner of the competition walked away with a brand new Nissan NP 200 bakkie – a very impressive prize indeed! It was also encouraging to see tremendous support by the tackle industry. For example, Rapala VMC was a major sponsor and many participants won some fantastic reels and many other prizes that they will use for their future fishing endeavours.
Congratulations, not only to the prize winners, but also the organisers. It was a fantastic event with win-win outcomes all round. The participants had a great time, the sponsors got good coverage, the fish were well treated and all released alive, and the researchers were able to tag some fish. Well done to all concerned.
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