Fishing to conserve fish: researchers and fishermen united for a common goal

Fishing to conserve fish: researchers and fishermen united for a common goal

Posted by Braham Smith on March 28, 2014

Over the past 3 years I have seen some amazing things take place in this lovely bay.

My name is Braham Smit I have been running the Tag and release project at Oceans Research.

I have seen how difficult it is to fish for different species of fish, sharks, and skates. I have seen invasive species come into the bay to spawn, and seen different predators following schools of fish to prey on their young. I have seen individuals grow up in captivity and released back into the wild, in the attempt of increasing the numbers of depleted endemic species populations...  all in the name of science, and it is truly a remarkable thing to witness.

What we have being doing the last few years through Oceans Research in Mossel Bay is fishing with a rod and reel for small pelagic sharks and benthic sharks. Mostly, we have tagged benthic leopard, puff adder, and striped cat sharks, but we have also been able to tag pelagic common smooth hound sharks, bronze whalers and smooth hammerhead sharks.

The trends we have seen is that usually the mature pelagic sharks enter the bay during winter months, whereas the juveniles are more abundant during summer months. As for the benthic sharks, they are abundant during the winter months but in the summer months a big absence of them in the bay is evident likely due to the "too hot" sea temperature the bay reaches in summer. We have noticed that in some areas of the bay you tend to get a better level of sampling over others in the bay. This could be due to the fact that some areas are over-fished or that there are some areas with less boat traffic and therefore less of a human impact.

What the future holds for us is to explore, discover, understand and conserve the different species of shark and fish in Mossel Bay. The more we can learn about the different species and their behaviours the better we will understand how to protect them and the better their chance of survival. This is a common goal for researchers (who aim at studying those species to conserve them) and fishermen (who aim at conserving those species to be able to carry on fishing long term): it used to be a difficult relationship but as the fish stock are decreasing rapidly, researchers and fishermen have to work hand in hand and fish smile for this relationship.

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