Alabama Saltwater Fishing Conservation
Becoming the leader in the family fishing industry has nothing to do with our ability to catch fish. Catching fish is easy. Standing alone as the leader comes with a responsibility to preserve a way of life by changing the way we look at saltwater fishing in Alabama. We are actually the first deep sea fishing charter boat to adopt and openly promote conservation. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our kids and grandkids have a sustainable fishery to enjoy for many years to come.
Voluntary Restraint Is Our Conservation Mission
We decided to actively promote “Voluntary Restraint,” when it comes to fishing three years ago. We believe in harvesting what you need rather than taking what you can. Our federal government adheres to and enforces the congressionally mandated Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act on October 11, 1996. This act is designed to stop overfishing of species of fish that are deemed endangered or over exploited, requires strict management of the fishery by enforcement and bag limits as well as restoration of our reef system.
Part of the Act requires the promotion of the domestic, commercial, recreational fishing under strict conservation and management principles that promote catch and release by the charter boats and the non-commercial fishermen.
With that being said, there is a lot of controversy about catch and release of reef fish. Everyone assumes that catch and release is a bad thing. This is because some of the species die after being brought up from deep water and then are released. Some float off behind a boat and are eaten by wild Dolphins that swim around the vessels. Dolphin interaction is another problem fishermen are facing. That is especially true with the Red Snapper fishery. For years, the practice of charter boats, recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen has been to use traditional fishing tackle and old, outdated methods of fishing like fishing on the bottom of the gulf instead of higher in the water column. Traditional methods include fishing with a heavy lead with two to twenty hooks on the bottom and pulling fish to the surface faster than the fish can naturally adjust their swim bladder. A swim bladder is a buoyancy device inside the fish that keeps them floating at different depths, instead of allowing them to sink. This causes reef fish barotrauma. Every scuba diver learns about Boyle’s law and understands what happens to the fish when ascended faster than they can adapt.
Research To Reduce By-catch of Reef Fish
With all of the studies, only one person has come up with a way to successfully return reef fish to the depths without killing them and is currently under study in Texas and with us. We use this method in an effort not to harm the Red Snapper or any other fish that has suffered from what scuba divers call barotrauma. A Ruptured Fish Swim Bladder Is Called Barotrauma. The swim bladder is in the abdomen of reef fish and it helps them maintain neutral buoyancy to keep from sinking to the bottom of the gulf.
We have all seen fish that are suffering from barotrauma. They have their stomachs protruding out of their mouths after reaching the surface. This is caused by the gas that is in their air bladder expanding to displace internal organs of the fish. One of the secrets we are finding is the depth where the reef fish is caught is the biggest contributor to causing and then surviving barotrauma.
The Congressional Law Forces Conservation While Fishing
The federal law says you must have a needle on board so you may vent the fish by sticking a needle in through the skin of the fish to bleed off the excessive air pressure that the fish can’t naturally do if thrown back into the water.
Most of them float on the surface where they become easy prey for wild dolphins and shark to eat. The problem with venting the fish is that most people don’t know how to do it properly and end up sticking the fish in the wrong place, thus causing damage to internal organs and causing infection by sticking an unsterilized needle into the side of the fish. You must ask yourself the question about sticking a fish. Are you causing more harm by sticking them with a needle or returning the fish to the depths safely with a tool attached to a fishing line with weights?