15 May 2007

Sailfish – Treat’em Right and they will live to fight another day

The Billfish Foundation (TBF) has done a lot to promote billfish conservation and has been instrumental in shifting past catch-and-kill practises to Tag & Release in most parts of the world. We fully support TBF and Tag & release all billfish from our game boats, the only exceptions being a fish that is clearly a National or World record.

TBF have noticed an increasing tendency nowadays for some anglers to lift a billfish (particularly sailfish) out of the water to photograph the angler with his catch.

If you choose to Tag & Release, there are four very good reasons not to lift your billfish out of the water:

1. To state the obvious – Fish can’t breathe out of the water and a billfish brought to the transom will almost certainly be, at the very least, ‘out of breath’. If you lift the fish out of the water, you are starving the fish of oxygen just when it needs it most. Imagine running up a flight of stairs and then trying to hold your breath when you get to the top.

2. Fish have a protective coat of slime on their bodies that helps them fight infection and parasites. In hauling out a large fish and handling (even with gloves), you will inevitably damage or remove some of this coating.

3. The billfish’s skeleton is designed to support the fish in water – not in air. If you haul a sailfish over the transom and try to hold it up, you are probably causing internal damage which may later kill the fish.

4. A thrashing billfish in the cockpit? Are you nuts? It’s just going to injure itself and maybe you too! If the fish is so exhausted that it can’t kick, lifting it out of the water and starving it of oxygen is likely to be the last straw.

We have, in the past removed a couple of sailfish from the water for photographs. We don’t do it any more. Nowadays, we photograph all billfish in the water after the fish has been tagged and the hook removed. Photos are a wonderful reminder of past memories for our guests and even more so to see their catch gently swimming behind the boat before release. We recommend you consider following the advice of The Billfish Foundation not to remove your catch from the water.

The whole point of Tag & Release is to gather scientific information for future conservation purposes and to release the fish unharmed. If you haul a billfish out of the water, you are damaging and possibly killing the very thing you are trying to conserve and protect.

Not much sense in that is there?