Fish caught in the middle

Reel Time, with Wayne Rudman

FRESH CATCH: Jamie Breetzke at Swartkops River. This catch was on surface plugs that mimic swimming prawns
FRESH CATCH: Jamie Breetzke at Swartkops River. This catch was on surface plugs that mimic swimming prawns

THE question whether fish feel pain or not is both an emotional and a factual one – and certainly an interesting topic. Reader Tracy Timmins expressed concern about this in her letter to The Herald last week.

She wrote that some scientific evidence existed that suggested fish do experience pain, fear and stress, and she therefore urged anglers to take care in the handling of fish to be kept for consumption.

It is my belief that all animals have a natural fear of man who is ultimately the predator of predators.

The level of pain a fish experiences can be debated. A specific case that some will find disturbing has been documented where sailors on a vessel caught a shark and gutted it for the intestines to lure in a greater shark.

After the gross disembowelling of the shark, it was thrown overboard only to be caught on its own guts minutes later. How much pain did this shark suffer – or is it just the nature of the species?

Another documented case questioning fish memory resulted from a catch at the De Hoop Nature Reserve.

While on a research project an angler caught a galjoen at 5am one morning. The necessary information was gathered and after being tagged the fish was released only to be re-caught at 12pm and put back again. This happened again at 5pm. To be caught three times in one day could suggest that fish feel little pain and have a short memory span. I don’t believe they develop a fear of baited hooks either as I have caught many a fish with a number of hooks still embedded in its mouth. Some of the hooks were so rusted that they would have been there for quite a while.

If it experienced acute pain then the fish would have stopped feeding some time before and should have otherwise starved.

In Germany the approach is quite different, I am told. You may not release a fish you have landed as it is believed you already placed the fish under undue stress and by euthanising the fish immediately you end its suffering. There is no catch-andrelease practised there and your daily limit is two. I believe there is certainly further research needed in this field.

On to other matters, the red tide has now been observed at Kasouga north of Port Elizabeth, where it has been described as bad. It appears to still linger on in patches around our coast at present, but looks like it is subsiding.

The wind is the key factor as to how long we will be plagued but until that happens we must weather the windless storm, so to speak.


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