Could barbless hooks for cod catch on?
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.
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.