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AUS: Recreational Fishing Guide

Media Releases issued by Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry - Australia

5 August 1999

Animal Welfare Committee Releases Recreational Fishing Guide

The National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare (NCCAW), which advises the Federal Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry on animal welfare issues of national significance, has released a position statement providing Australia's recreational fishers with a comprehensive guide on the latest humane fishing practices.

Head of the National Office of Animal and Plant Health, Dr Gardner Murray, said the statement, Animal Welfare Aspects of Recreational Fishing, would provide Australia's estimated three to four million recreational fishers with important tips on fishing responsibly and humanely.

"The membership of NCCAW comprises representatives of the State and Territory animal welfare units, the National Farmers' Federation, the RSPCA, Animals Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association, the National Health and Medical Research Council and Environment Australia," Dr Murray said.

"Since November 1996, NCCAW has liaised with recreational fishing bodies, State fishing departments and AFFA to produce this statement.

"Information is provided on fishing tackle and how different types of hooks and line affect the fish. It also contains information on appropriate landing, tethering and tagging techniques to minimise the damage to fish.

"Recreational fishing is an important leisure activity for millions of Australians - some 122,000 people alone belong to fishing clubs. It is also an important contributor to the economy.

"It supports about 90,000 Australian jobs, and annual turnover in the tackle and bait industry tops $170 million. The recreational boating industry, around 60 per cent fishing-related, accounts for a further $500 million in turnover.

"The NCCAW statement will help raise awareness among recreational fishers of the importance of humane and sustainable practices.

"And it will complement the National Code of Practice for Recreational and Sport Fishing published by Australia's recreational fishing bodies."

Dr Murray added that both documents should play an important role in generating discussion in the lead up to next year's national survey into recreational and indigenous fishing.

A more detailed account of the NCCAW's Animal Welfare Aspects of Recreational Fishing, is in the attached position statement.




Consistent with an individual's responsibility to treat all vertebrate animals humanely, this position statement provides guidance on humane practices in recreational fishing and some commercial activities that involve recreational fishers.

Fish welfare should be included under the protection of State and Territory animal welfare and fisheries legislation (see NCCAW Position Statement 14).

Any damage to a fish will impair its ability to survive if released, and should be avoided.

The NCCAW considered specific practices relating to recreational fishing and provides the following positions on each:

Fishing tackle

The selection of hooks and their arrangement should be made on the basis of minimising damage to the fish. Barbless hooks inflict less damage to fish, so their use is encouraged, particularly if fish are to be released.

Hooks which rust and breakdown quickly are preferable to long lasting hooks if fish are to be released, particularly with regards to fresh water species.

The use of excessively light line is discouraged as it is likely to result in longer landing times and more frequent break offs. Fish that break off may be compromised by the attached line.


If fish are to be returned to the water, handling and time out of water should be minimised as far as possible. Where practical, fish should be released without removal from the water.

Fish should be landed quickly in order to minimise damage.

Where a fish is damaged, such as by excessive bleeding, eye injury, or prolapse of the swim bladder, the fish should be killed immediately and not released.

Soft knotless landing mesh nets should be used where appropriate rather than gaffs if the fish is to be released.

The handling of live fish should be minimised. In particular, fish should not be picked up by the tail or in the gills. Generally, fish over 1kg should have their bellies supported to prevent damage to the spinal column.

Wet cotton gloves (if available) or wet hands should be used to minimise damage to fish.

Care should be taken when removing hooks. If internal damage may result from hook removal, eg in the gills or the gut, the hook should be left in place and the line cut as short as possible.

Captured fish that are to be kept, must be killed as soon as possible, either by a blow to the head or by using the sharp end of a knife to destroy the brain. Prompt killing protects the welfare of the fish and improves the quality of the product.

Tethering of fish

Tethering through the gills or mouth of live fish for any purpose is unacceptable and should be phased out.

Live baiting (the use of live fish)

Live baiting is to be discouraged on animal welfare grounds. While live baiting continues, it should be carried out in a way that minimises damage to the bait fish.

Fishing competitions (temporary stocking)

Fishing competitions involving the temporary stocking of fish in an unsuitable environment (eg public swimming pools contaminated with chlorine), and/or which involve excessive handling, inappropriate transportation, repetitive capture and/or overcrowding, should be avoided.

Commercial 'fish-out' recreational activities

Commercial 'fish-out' operators are encouraged to provide unskilled fishers with instructions on humane handling and killing of captured fish. A program of instruction and monitoring is desirable.

Fish tagging

Only identification methods that are humane and cause minimal disruption to fish should be adopted.

The National Consultative Committee on Animal Welfare:

recognises that the recreational fishing industry supports the need to treat fish humanely; encourages the progression of State and national Codes of Practice to specifically address animal welfare aspects of recreational fishing; and supports an educational approach to the issue.

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