Could bar­b­less hooks for cod catch on?

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE - TIM O’CON­NELL

Bar­b­less hooks might mean a few more yarns about ‘‘the one that got away’’, but that’s a small price to pay for fewer dead fish in the sea, says a blue cod ad­vo­cate.

Marl­bor­ough Recre­ational Fish­ers As­so­ci­a­tion life mem­ber Tony Or­man has waded in with his own ideas for pre­serv­ing the top of the south fish­ery as the Gov­ern­ment ponders its the next step.

Or­man said bar­b­less hooks should be made com­pul­sory, given the ease in re­leas­ing cod un­dam­aged, and an­glers should be re­stricted to one hook rather than fish­ing with two or three.

The barb it­self was the small tri­an­gu­lar bit of me­tal on the hook, point­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion of the sharp end. While barbed hooks were ac­knowl­edged to hold onto fish bet­ter once caught, the bar­b­less al­ter­na­tive pre­sented less dan­ger to fish mor­tal­ity, de­spite the risk of los­ing a few more fish from an an­gler’s line.

While the one hook con­cept was vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to po­lice and there­fore did not jus­tify a reg­u­la­tion, Or­man said it should be a ma­jor part of any ed­u­ca­tion pro­grammes.

‘‘It’s about in­still­ing a strong sense of ethics,’’ he said. ‘‘But the push to ed­u­cate must be strong not just a to­ken ges­ture.’’

The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries re­cently iden­ti­fied the need for a Na­tional Blue Cod Strat­egy to ‘‘pro­vide an over­ar­ch­ing, con­sis­tent man­age­ment frame­work’’ to im­prove fish­eries un­der pres­sure, as well as ‘‘main­tain and en­hance well-per­form­ing fish­eries’’.

The min­istry would en­gage with all sec­tors and tan­gata whenua as part of a na­tion­wide re­view later this year. How­ever, the ini­tial fo­cus would be on the South Is­land in order to ad­dress cur­rent man­age­ment con­cerns.

At this stage, the min­istry was in the process of putting a team of ex­perts to­gether to start the first stages of de­vel­op­ing the strat­egy.

Or­man also sug­gested al­low­ing recre­ational fish­ers to have hold­ing tanks to re­lease the blue cod away from wait­ing preda­tors af­ter catch­ing their limit.

This avoided op­por­tunis­tic preda­tors such as shags and bar­ra­couta from snatch­ing re­leased un­der­sized cod.

He also sup­ported a three-fish blue cod bag limit across the en­tire top of the south, in­stead of the cur­rent two-fish limit for the Sounds.

How­ever, Or­man re­futed sug­ges­tions the blue cod fish­ery was ever in dire cri­sis, not least when Labour’s fish­eries min­is­ter Jim An­der­ton closed the fish­ery in 2008.

‘‘It was in­ex­pli­ca­ble the NZ Recre­ational Fish­ing Coun­cil backed An­der­son’s ill-con­ceived clo­sure with no ref­er­ence to an­glers on the spot in Marl­bor­ough – ex­pe­ri­enced an­glers had no trou­ble get­ting their then-limit of three cod, usu­ally within an hour and at times within half an hour,’’ he said.

A sub­se­quent ban had caused disquiet among recre­ational an­glers and im­pacted deeply on the Marl­bor­ough econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly Pic­ton, he said.

With the abil­ity to fish re­stored in the Sounds area, Or­man said the fish­ery needed to be prop­erly man­aged. Fur­ther de­tails on the na­tional strat­egy can be found at www.mpi.govt.nz.

PHOTO: FILE

Blue cod caught on ar­ti­fi­cial jigs are more likely to be lip-hooked and sur­vive re­lease than bait-caught fish which can swal­low the hook.

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