I, like so many other fishers, love to catch fish. There is something deeply satisfying about catching a fish and taking it home to feed friends and family. I believe this feeling stems from our evolution; it is only in the last couple of hundred years that we as humans have been able to survive by earning money and purchasing food, before that we needed good hunter-gatherer instincts. To ensure we survived as a species, we needed good instincts to kill, but we also needed good instincts to conserve, because if all the fish were taken, or all the animals killed, or the entire crop harvested, there would be no food for tomorrow.
So for those of us that have a passion for fishing, this love of the ocean and its inhabitants can in part be put down to instinct. Therefore it is the people that fish for the love of it that are the guardians of the ocean; it is recreational fishermen that are at the forefront of protecting fish stocks from commercial overfishing where fish are being exploited for commercial gain, with little regard given to sustainability.
Through the show we are able to inspire people to get into fishing, and we are also able to impart tips and advice to existing fishers to help them catch more fish. Now, at the outset, encouraging more fishing and more effective fishing seems to go against our conservation ethos, but here is how it works...
The more people that can go out and successfully catch a fish to take home, the more people that then have a connection to the marine environment and therefore will want it protected. Sure they will take a few fish in the process, but catching fish by hook and line to feed family and friends has been sustainable for thousands of years, it is actually part of the marine eco-system. And all the recreational catch combined is a minute fraction of the millions of tonnes of fish taken by commercial fishing companies.
Even so, we encourage fishers to only take what they need; "just enough for a feed" is a catch line. We also encourage the release of the larger breeding fish, and to help with fisheries research by tagging and releasing fish. While the recreational fishing take is comparatively small it is still significant, and two wrongs do not make a right so we all need to do our bit.
So how do we get fishers to fish conservatively? For a start we do not preach to them, people enjoy fishing because it is an escape from their busy lives, recreational time is precious and I'm not likely to get a good response if I stand up and tell people how they should spend their time fishing. So instead we show people, by releasing big fish, and explaining the importance of these bigger fish and the reproduction cycle of the species. If you want a trophy (and lets face it most of us do) just take a photo before letting it go. That way you have captured that moment in time to savour forever.
By demonstrating how much enjoyment and satisfaction you can get by catching a feed of fish, releasing a big fish or tagging and releasing a fish, viewers will invariably try it themselves. But we still need to ensure that when we take fish responsibly for food, or take the occasional big fish as a hard earned trophy, we do it unashamedly, after all catching a fish is something to be proud of, so celebrate it!