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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Spearfishery management

A news item from New Caledonia. You may have seen it already since it has hit the world press:

A fisherman survived a shark attack in New Caledonia, France, by poking the creature in the eye as it shook him “like a rag”, he told a newspaper yesterday. Jesse Jizdny, a 30-year-old policeman, said the tiger shark went for him three times last week while he was fishing with friends off the northwestern coast of the French South Pacific territory.

“I saw a big tiger (shark) coming with its jaws open. I saw all its teeth. He went for my torso and I thought, ‘that’s it, I’m done for’,” Jizdny told the Nouvelles Caledoniennes newspaper from his hospital bed. He hit the shark on its nose but it came back at him and caught his ankle. Then it charged a third time and grabbed a leg. “It was shaking me like a rag. I bent round on him and put my hands on its jaws. Suddenly I felt something soft. So I put my whole thumb in, it was its eye.” The shark let go and swam away, while Jizdny was airlifted to hospital in the capital Noumea where he underwent an operation on his injured leg.

So just be careful next time you go spearfishing. Tigers aren't too choosy about what (or who) they eat, especially when there are dead fish nearby.

Photo linked from ScottS at flickr - www.flickr.com/photos/scotts101/55399115/

Which reminds me, FAO has just published our joint review of Spearfishing in the Pacific Islands ("current status and management issues"). Bob Gillett did almost all the legwork and writing on this, and it makes a useful read for anyone who is interested in one of the biggest headaches facing fisheries managers in this region.

It is ironic that so much is being spent on trying to get Pacific Island governments aboard initiatives to control international deepsea trawling in the oceanic tropical Pacific Islands when there IS no significant deepsea trawling in the region, but trying to get resources together to do something about an existing national management headache like commercial spearfishing is like trying to get blood out of a stone. It took quite a while to persuade FAO to climb aboard this review, but climb aboard they did, and eventually paid 66% of the costs of visiting 5 Pacific Island countries to gather the background information, as well as the publication costs.

Trouble is, this is a fishery without an international aspect, and local fisheries don't attract a lot of attention from funding sources nowadays. You don't get to speak for your country at the United Nations, and there is no high-profile international law governing it. I'm just glad that FAO, especially through the FishCode programme, is keeping its eye on the real issues, and not just pursuing the high profile internationally-combative stuff like the rest of the pack.

Well, we've got a concise statement of the issues. Now to try and find support for workable on-the-water control systems. This will require not just fishing community awareness, but a certain level of central government legislation and enforcement, as well as the rewriting of many national development strategies that still refer to the "teeming bounty of the sea", and which promote economic livelihoods through reef-fishing without considering the likely ecological limitations.

And this is one fisheries management issue where marine protected areas, in the form of seasonal or permanent "spawning aggregation" protection, is likely to be one of the most useful components to any management strategy.

The final document itself is not yet online, but it should be so shortly, and you should eventually be able to find it via http://www.fao.org/figis/servlet/static?xml=fishcode_prog.xml&dom=org&xp_nav=5,1

A draft version is however available on the SPC 5th Heads of Fisheries Meeting website at http://www.spc.int/coastfish/Reports/HOF5/HOF5-spearfishing-web.pdf

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