The essence of capturing marine life

Last night, while doing some underwater photography, a group of three young fishermen approached me and asked what I was doing.

A Violet Spotted Anemone nestled on a sandy seabed and captured with side lighting.

Interesting they said.

In response to my query of their activities they answered ‘Catching sharks. To get a bragging photo’ with excitement.

Though plenty of tag and release has offered up a vast amount of information on shark growth, migration and reproductive strategies, very little has been conducted on the physiological stress of capture, handling and even the substrate that they are landed on.

I suggested that if he wanted a photo with a shark to brag about he should review the Instagram account @Oceanramsey to get some ideas. All of which would make his efforts for the night rather insipid.

Seriously, if you want to brag, put a mask and fins on and get in the water and up close and personal with a shark.

Though the media portrays sharks as ruthless violet creatures, approached carefully, it is possible to swim with many species. A head on encounter with a Scalloped Hammerhead is a surreal experience due to their unusual head shape.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s at the start of concerted game capture, the method was to chase game across the veld and try lasso them.

Sadly many animals died. Research showed that the core cause was exhaustion, the excessive build up of lactic acid. Thankfully today game capture is more sophisticated and extreme care is given to the capture, handling and release of wildlife.

It may be time to do so with large fish and cartilaginous fish in particular, namely the sharks and rays.

Not only does a prolonged time landing a large shark pose a life threatening risk to survival, but landing on rocks without a mat presents the risk of lacerations and damage to eyes.

Collateral damage from snagged recreational fishing tackle, a young male Blue Stingray died from ghost fishing.

Snagging of tackle during landing a catch also adds the risk of death by ghost fishing.

This morning, while freediving I found a small male Blue Stingray, dead with abrasions and hooked on snagged fishing tackle.

Inverted on the seabed the male Blue Stingray was snagged to a rock by fishing tackle. In this case, the tackle most likely snagged while the fisherman was trying to land the stingray, resulting in a prolonged fighting death as it tried to free itself.

Echos of the young fishermen from last night rang through my mind as I recovered the tackle and the fresh corpse ‘Wow, catching a ray was better than a shark.’ Inspired by his excitement, his friends both wanted to catch a ray.

Was this ray an unfortunate catch which snagged the braided line on the anchor rock and died struggling, to become the 7th fish species that we have documented being killed by ghost fishing?

Tackle rigged for larger species of fish often get snagged when the lead sinker catches on the reef. Braided line is difficult to break and results in a strong anchor to the reef for any hooked fish.

Still looking for bragging rights, follow the example of @Oceanramsey. You will travel more and have more fun.

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