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Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015

BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q2 • 2015 91 Can you remember the first billfish you ever caught? For those of us who have been lucky enough to have caught a marlin, sailfish, or swordfish, the memory of our first billfish is perhaps one of the most coveted experiences for any angler. For most, it’s a memory full of the smell of diesel, spray of the water, and sore arms pumping as the captain backs down on a lit up fish, gray-hounding and fighting with all its might. Although it’s a memory that will be with us forever, many anglers choose to get a quick picture with their first billfish. However, pulling billfish out of the water for a picture may not only be illegal, it may be killing your catch. Unfortunately, more and more photos are coming up on websites, social media, and even in fishing magazines of people holding up a sailfish or small marlin, stretched across their laps or covering boards. What most anglers do not know though is that in US, Atlantic waters it is actually illegal to take a highly migratory species (HMS) out of the water unless a person intends to harvest the fish. CFR  635.21 ATLANTIC HIGHLY MIGRATORY SPECIES. Subpart C - Management Measures - Gear operation and deployment restrictions (a) All Atlantic HMS fishing gears.  (1) An Atlantic HMS harvested from its management unit that is not retained must be released in a manner that will ensure maximum probability of survival, but without removing the fish from the water. (2) If a billfish is caught by a hook, the fish must be released by cutting the line near the hook or by using a dehooking device, in either case without removing the fish from the water. Removing any fish from the water puts additional stress and damage to the fish on top of the physiological stress already caused from fighting the fish. Any contact the fish may have with a person, the gunnel, or covering board removes the protective slime layer of the fish which protects it from parasites and infections. Just like a person who is down after a hectic or traumatic experience, billfish are more susceptible to infections or diseases when stressed. Injuries also can occur to because the skeleton of a billfish is designed for the buoyant conditions of the ocean. Removing the fish from the water, even onto the gunnel, causes the skeleton and internal organs to come under the full strain of gravity causing potential damage.


Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015
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