Ethical Angling

Preserve Your Passion

Recreational angling is an activity enjoyed by millions of people across the world and is one of the oldest and most popular forms of outdoor recreation. South Africa alone has an estimated 850 000 rock and surf anglers and 1735 registered light tackle boats (Leibolt, 2008). But all this enjoyment hasn’t come without a cost… “Recreational angling affects the structure and function of fish populations and potentially entire aquatic ecosystems” (Lewin, 2008.)
Despite a large portion of recreational anglers believing that they have no negative impact on marine ecosystems or fish populations and who, more often than not, shift the blame to commercial fisheries or the Chinese trawlers (that’s a whole other story)….it’s about time some responsibility was taken. 

The movement

Over the last decade, increased research and management of recreational fisheries has clearly indicated that by no means are recreational anglers free of responsibility –  “the main biological impacts include changes in the size and age structures in populations or communities, biomass reduction, loss of genetic diversity, changes in trophic cascades and habitat degradation” (Lewin, 2008).
However, there are plenty of conscious and ethical anglers out there who do their best to look after and protect our natural environment. ‘Ethical angling’ is a relatively new approach to fishing – it is a movement of understanding, appreciating and respecting the fish one catches and the natural environment one is fishing in. 


Ethical anglers

Ethical anglers don’t only obey regulations and catch limits but also show a deep seated interest and passion for the fish they catch and familiarise themselves with the workings of various ecosystems. They make a strong effort to practice the best handling techniques and will always minimise the fish’s exposure to air and stress. Ethical anglers are concerned about the well-being of the natural environment and proactively try to minimise any negative impact on it.


Catch and release 

Catch and release is by far the most sustainable form of recreational fishing. “Current catch-and-release practices are still certainly better for fish populations than not releasing the fish at all” (Anna Funk, 2018). However, to ensure  high survival rates of released fish, it is vital for anglers to diligently practice the best angling ethics. Anglers must practice excellent handling techniques (wet hands and use of mat), limit air exposure to 30 seconds and use nonintrusive gear (eg. circle hooks).


Why should you tag and release? 

Voluntary angler-based tagging programs have become increasingly popular over the years and have added substantial benefit to fisheries research and the management of marine ecosystems. Tagging fish helps to obtain valuable data such as their movement, age, growth rate and migratory patterns, just to name a few.


Co-operative fish tagging project

Best handling techniques for catch and release:

It is our job as anglers to keep the fight to a minimum, wet our hands, keep the fish in the water, and release it properly.
  • Land the fish quickly to avoid exhausting the fish. Make sure to ALWAYS use suitable gear for what you are targeting (big fish = heavy gear)
  • Keep the fish in the water if you are not tagging or taking a photo
  • Use a net when lifting the fish out of the water
  • ALWAYS wet your hands before touching the fish
  • Make use of a bucket and mat when tagging a fish
  • Use circle (barbless) hooks to limit injury
  • ALWAYS minimise air exposure 30 seconds!
  • Revive and recover the fish before releasing
  • ALWAYS remember you are handling another living being, be gentle.

Are you interested in the correct handling of sharks and rays