FISH welfare is becoming an important topic for anglers in many parts of the world. In some cases, this has been for the wrong reasons, such as in Europe where some countries have imposed legislation banning popular fishing practices (including voluntary catch and release), supposedly based on fish welfare grounds.
In Australia, the recreational fishing industry has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to improvement of fish welfare outcomes through its funding and support of many environmental initiatives that aim to protect and restore water quality and fish habitat.
Australia has also been a world leader in developing recreational fishing initiatives that improve welfare outcomes for fish, such as the National Strategy for the Survival of Released Line Caught Fish, the NEATFish environmental standard for fishing tournaments and the National Code of Practice for Recreational and Sport Fishing.
This trend is continuing through a new project funded by the Federal Government through the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. The project aims to develop resources that promote best practice in the humane dispatch of finfish caught by recreational anglers.
Dr Ben Diggles is the project manager. He points out that the National Code of Practice already encourages anglers to "dispatch fish immediately with a firm tap on the head with a suitable blunt object or by pithing". But whether this advice is heeded remains unknown, which is why this project aims to not only gather information on how Aussie anglers currently dispatch their fish, but will also develop resources which will provide "how to" information for recreational anglers to improve their confidence to use best practice procedures for humane killing of fish.
One method which will receive attention is promotion of brain spiking (also known as pithing or iki jime), a method of humane killing which also results in other benefits including improved flesh quality and longer shelf life.
Keep an eye out for more information from this project over the next few months on the fisho website. Also, we ask that readers take the time to fill out the reader survey below on which killing methods you currently use for the fish you take for the table.