• Pic: Mick Fletoridis
    Pic: Mick Fletoridis

SEVENTY centimetres seems to be the size these days at which a kept dusky flathead will draw jeers of disdain from the sidelines.

In NSW, the Department of Primary Industries allows anglers to keep one dusky over 70 centimetres - legally it's ok yet socially it's not. I remember photographing an 80-plus-cm fish that was about to be released and was heckled by a smug passerby: "you'd better release that one mate". I ignored old mate, the poor bugger seemed a little dour and was probably lacking the delivery that should have accompanied any heartfelt concern.

A 40 centimetre yellowfin bream is a pensioner of the species, yet our current state based regulations allows for 20 to be taken – a whole nursing home of bream in your esky. Knocking off a few thumping big old bream seems more socially acceptable than taking a single big old flathead. Ditto for snapper and jewies with success being measured in centimetres and kilos rather than numbers released.

I won't even entertain the notion of a tasty striped or black marlin going home for the table; touch one of those suckers and the grim reaper will be knocking on your door. Apex predators seem subjectively protected with varied levels of stigma associated with taking one home for a meal. A marlin lying on the deck is disgraceful, a broadbill will probably be axed at any opportunity. Same goes for a stack of tuna carcasses which is generally labelled as sashimi heaven with no one batting an eyelid.

Where do we draw the line on what is socially acceptable and why are some species seemingly more precious than others? You can take as many big bluespotted and tiger flathead up to your bag limit, touch a big dusky and death threats will likely follow.

Murray cod are another fish that generally aren't on the kill list nowadays with most fish going back; take a big cod at your own peril!

Moral and ethical guidance by a peak body or fishing commentators can provide some wonderful outcomes and can help to guide legislative reform. This needs to be tempered, however, with what is legally allowed as internet lynch mobs and angry zealots (who might have their heart in the right place) aren't always mindful of the rights licenced anglers have. I remember seeing a bloke berated by another angler at my local ramp for having a bag limit of fish. On one hand I could appreciate the frustration shared by the irate angler but hated the aggression towards someone that was well within their legal right.

Where do you draw the line. Are there any examples of social scorn that gets your blood boiling or do you think there are species that should be afforded a little more protection? Conversely should there be a little more lenience for some species?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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