The Ultimate in Catch and Release

Two Oceans Aquarium release Mandy and Noodle

The Ultimate in Catch and Release.

You may well think that it is at times pretty tricky to safely let go a 12” trout, fins catch in net mesh, fingers get speared by barbless hooks and you take great care to ensure that your quarry is returned unharmed, well rested and in full possession of their faculties. So have a think about this.

On Wednesday the Two Oceans Aquarium, www.aquarium.co.za, transported and released two Ragged Tooth Sharks in Gordon’s Bay. Mandy and Noodle had served their time helping educate the public with respect to the beauty and importance of sharks in our environment.

These two gorgeous girls had been captured in the wild:

Mandy outside of East London in Feb 2009 and Noodle in Struisbaai in April 2008, both were now going home. Released to join their compatriots on what appears to be an annual migration North towards Durban.

I was privileged to be able to participate in their release and quite some operation it was. Moving two aquatic animals weighing in the region of 170Kgs each isn’t for the feint hearted or the disorganized for that matter.

The fish were sedated in their holding tanks to both reduce stress to themselves and provide some measure of safety for the team working with them. They were then hoisted out of the holding tank, weighed, tagged, measured and lowered an entire story to the waiting tank truck for the journey along the N2 to Gordon’s Bay.

At the harbour their level of sedation was checked and first Noodle and then Mandy were lifted by crane onto the support boat into a shallow tank for the final leg of their trip to deep water off Rooi Els.

Divers in the water helped support the sharks for the first few moments until such time as the clean water flushed the last remnants of sedative from their systems and they were able to make their way into the ocean depths.. what a special moment..

Dawn in Cape Town, Ragged Tooth Sharks "Raggies", Mandy and Noodle will be transported from the Two Oceans Aquarium in the shadow of Table Mountain and released back into the ocean.

V & A Waterfront Cape Town

Dawn at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town South Africa. The Two Oceans aquarium has been temporary home to Ragged Tooth Sharks Mandy and Noodle for the past year or so, it is now time for them to go home. Back into the ocean and what will probably be a leisurely trip along the coast, heading north for the winter.

Noodle is helped into the sling to start her journey.

Two Oceans Aquarium

First step, the sedated sharks are removed from their temporary holding tank in preparation for weighing, measuring and tagging.

Both the “Girls” had put on some weight from the fine seafood dining at the waterfront.

The sharks were removed from the tank in a specially designed harness.

Two Oceans Aquarium

The sharks are lifted out of the holding tank in a special sling, measured weighed and tagged before being lowered to the ground floor of the aquarium into the waiting tank truck for transportation to Gordons Bay Harbour.

A very large mobile goldfish pond, with some pretty special goldfish.

Two Oceans Aquarium:

The sedated sharks are lowered into the tank truck and ready for the road trip part of their journey.

At the harbour the process is repeated and the sharks are lowered by crane into a small tank in the waiting boat.

Gordons’ Bay Harbour:

The sharks are lifted by crane truck and lowered into a small tank on the waiting Two Oceans Aquarium boat.

They are but a short boat trip from freedom.

A slightly undignified return to the ocean but freedom is only moments away.

Off shore Gordon’s Bay

After a short boat ride the sharks are lifted manually from the small holding tank and released into the sea. A team of divers is on hand to swim with the sharks to insure that they have worn off the effects of the sedative and are able to balance their buoyancy properly before the fish swim off into the depths.

Goodbye Mandy, a breath of fresh sea water to flush out the sedative and Mandy is on her way.

Off shore Gordon’s Bay.

One last affectionate pat from the divers and Mandy is ready to leave.

WHY WERE THESE SHARKS IN THE AQUARIUM IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Mandy and Noodle were part of an ongoing programme to educate the public about sharks, to allow them to get a new perspective on these magnificent apex predators and to recognise their perfection and beauty. Most people are wholly unaware of the importance or sharks to our environment or for that matter to the wholesale slaughter of these wonderful creatures at the hand of mankind..

SHARKS AND PEOPLE: MASS MURDER ON THE HIGH SEAS.. A PERSPECTIVE

Humans Kill Millions of Sharks Every Year.

Humans kill a hundred million sharks a year, many simply having their fins chopped off for the shark fin soup industry, only to be thrown, still alive, back into the water to an agonizing and unnecessary end.

To give those numbers some perspective think about this:

South African will host the FIFA World Cup this year. If we chopped off the arms and legs of all the spectators at all the games during the tournament we still wouldn’t come close to the numbers of sharks similarly damaged. The average stadium will house 70 000 spectators, violently removing the limbs of the spectators we would need to keep going for a thousand games of soccer with full house capacity to reach the target of a hundred million or so. When you think of it in those terms the mans callous disregard for the oceans in general and sharks in particular become all the more horrifying.

Think of these as arms and legs, maybe you will get the picture.

Why should this appear on a fishing blog? Because I like to think that many, although sadly not all, fishermen are at least in part conservationists. Hopefully the efforts of the Two Oceans Aquarium Crew will serve as inspiration to us all to take care of our fish stocks and our aquatic environments, both fresh and saltwater.

Catch and release.

There are detractors to catch and release, there are even countries where it is banned but I would be willing to bet that in many of those countries you can still buy a tin of shark fin soup. We can only look after the planet one person at a time, one animal at a time, one decision at a time,  so take some solace in knowing that there are people out there doing good for this planet and you as an angler can contribute to that process without having to give up on your sport.

Fish Catch and Release, use barbless hooks, carry a soft mesh net when you are fishing to minimize damage to the fish. Take care to revive them properly before letting them go and avoid fishing for cold water species such as trout if the water temperature gets too high. Sport fishing isn’t incompatible with looking after our planet but it does require some commitment and maybe a change of outlook for some.

The World Wildlife Fund estimate that one hundred million sharks are killed annually.
This post contains approximately 5000 letters.
ONE SHARK IS KILLED FOR EVERY LETTER ON THIS PAGE EVERY HALF AN HOUR.

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2 Responses to “The Ultimate in Catch and Release”

  1. Renee Says:

    Brilliant article. Thanks. Truely opens one’s eyes when the stats are put into perspective like this

    • paracaddis Says:

      Thanks Renee, I am most gratified this has been the most popular post of all time on this blog, with over a 112 hits in one day..I suppose small cheese in the grand scheme of things but people obviously referred it to others and that means that there are people out there who do have an interest which is quite wonderful. Tim

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