FISH FACTS: Iki jime tools

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THE recent NSW Government Discussion Paper on Animal Welfare Reform has confirmed (if there was ever any doubt) that animal welfare issues are becoming increasingly important in Australia. These changes in community perception are extremely relevant to recreational fishers, especially when we now see well-funded campaigns by animal rights groups to try to include not only finfish, but aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and cephalopod molluscs under these welfare acts “at all times”, including regulation of their treatment not only in captivity, but also when they are in the wild.

Scientifically, the wisdom of including invertebrate groups under such Acts is highly questionable. For example, crustaceans are proto-arthropods which evolutionarily pre-date insects. So if crustaceans are included under welfare legislation, by the same logic insects should be too. These vexed issues aside, from a practical standpoint angling groups nationwide have been fighting in the best interests of fish welfare for decades through campaigns for clean water and healthy fish habitat, both of which are critical for the welfare of wild fish.

Since 1995, the development of Australia’s National Code of Practice for Recreational and Sport Fishing has also recognised fish welfare and the need to quickly and humanely kill fish that are kept for consumption, as well as urging prompt return of unwanted or under/oversized fish back into the water using best practice fish handling methods.

Regarding the humane dispatch of fish retained for consumption, the Code of Practice encourages anglers to “dispatch fish immediately with a firm tap on the head with a suitable blunt object or by pithing”. Indeed, science shows that brain destruction by pithing or “iki-jime” is the fastest way to dispatch finfish, resulting in the lowest levels of stress. Iki-jime (a Japanese term denoting "live killing, or to terminate while alive") is a method used to destroy the brain using iki-jime spikes that can now be obtained in many tackle stores. A sharpened screwdriver or sharp knife are other equally effective, zero cost tools. Administered accurately, iki-jime can be the fastest, one-step process which results in the lowest levels of fish stress compared to all other methods of dispatch. The method also has other benefits in relation to maximizing the quality of the resulting fish product, greatly improving its taste and shelf life especially if fish are then immediately bled and placed on ice. However, fish brains are small and vary in location between species, so guidance on brain location is needed to encourage more people to embrace best practice and give iki jime a try.

To fill this information void, around 10 years ago using funding from the now defunct Australian Animal Welfare Strategy I developed world’s first educational resources specifically designed to help anglers humanely dispatch finfish by the iki jime method. Subsequently, I developed and funded the www.ikijime.com website in 2012 to provide accurate “how-to” information on the iki jime procedure, including cool x-rays of the brain location of around 100 species of finfish caught by recreational anglers throughout Australia. To get this information into the hands of more anglers while they were out fishing, in 2013 I subsequently funded development of the “Ikijime Tool” series of phone apps for iOS and Android mobile devices. Since then the apps have required regular updates, with partial funding by a NSW Fisheries Trust small grant allowing the 2.0 version of the app to be released in 2016, with more fish species in the database and enhanced search functions. Phone apps are powerful tools for dissemination of information to anglers, however the downside of this medium is that they need regular updating in order to work long term, as phone manufacturers continually upgrade their operating systems. Over the past few years these apps have required further updating to accommodate feedback from users and so they continue to function on modern devices. It has been a long gestation period, but I can now report that the latest updated version of the Ikijime Tool phone app (version 2.1.2) is now live for Android and Apple iOS devices.

Today the latest Ikijime Tool app still remains the world first fish welfare tool, providing anglers with convenient access to cool photos and x-rays (together with helpful information on the brain location and other interesting fishy facts) for over 150 popular fish species targeted by anglers throughout Australia and worldwide. The 2.1.2 version of the app now provides updated search functions to allow the user several different ways to search the fish database. You can use location services and let the app automatically sort its database depending on your location. Or you can search using our traditional search by region, or taxonomic search functions. Or you may prefer the "Text Search" function to examine the entire database quickly and easily in alphabetical order. For convenience you can now shortlist your favourite fish species to your own "Favourites" list which makes finding them even easier. There are also various improvements in the settings functions, all based on user feedback over the past several years.

Once you have selected your fish from the database by hitting "Go Fish", the fishes data page will appear with many fishy facts including alternative names, description, distribution, common and maximum sizes and more. You can then hit the x-ray button on the top right to use the very cool slide tool that shows the brain location of your fish superimposed as a white spot over easily recognised external landmarks.

Stick your brain spike into the spot, the fish is instantly and humanely killed, and you have dinner! Other useful features include a "Camera" function that allows you to take pictures of your catch to send to your friends for identification or bragging rights, and the "Settings" page, where you can adjust the default app options to your liking, sync with the database to retrieve information on new fish species as they arrive, or download PDF brochures to print out, laminate and take fishing with you.

Like our previous Ikijime Tool Extreme app, the latest version of Ikijime Tool will work in remote regions where there is no phone or internet coverage. All you have to do is download the app from the store then sync the app (in the setting section) to ensure that the entire www.ikijime.com database is instantly available on your phone at your fingertips at all times and places. Users who already had our previous Ikijime Tool Extreme app should be able upgrade to the new app without cost. Otherwise, new users will be prompted to purchase the app for a small fee ($5) after 10 database searches, a necessary impost to help defray the ongoing fixed costs associated with running the website and database administration.

Thanks to the QLD Government (Business Basics Grants Program) and NSW Fisheries Trusts which have both contributed funds to partially defray the cost of this latest upgrade. For those governments or other institutions wanting to increase the number of species in the database for their region, please contact me on info@ikijime.com.

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