Written by Katy Rohl
In recent months an abundance of Swordfish have been reported by fishermen off Tasmanian shores. As Swordfish are world renowned as being very prestigious fish to catch, game fishermen are steadily arriving to try and lure in these lucrative aquatic giants and ultimately surpass the previously set records. Tourism Tasmania has become aware of the surge in presence of this species and can see immediate promise in the attraction of game fishermen globally to Tasmanian waters.
Already throughout 2014 there have been multiple reports of record breaking Swordfish. In June 2014, game fisherman Leo Miller caught, tagged and released a massive Swordfish in the Eaglehawk Neck area of Tasmania. This female Swordfish weighed 170kg and measured an astonishing 3.1 metres long and 1.6 metres wide. This catch could have been eligible for the All-tackle Australian record. Instead, the animal was released as the first Swordfish to be tagged in Tasmanian waters. After returning to shore Miller explained “As an amateur fisherman that’s the pinnacle, that’s what we all strive for, it’s an incredible feeling.” Unfortunately, this female Swordfish is believed to have died within days of its release.
Tourism Tasmania has spotted a money making opportunity through exploiting the recent presence of Swordfish and believe that they can attract a vast array of game fishermen. The head of Game Fishing Association Australia, Brett Cleary, stated “I think this fishery has the potential to bring people from other states of Australia, but even from around the World.” Continuing on to say “Port Stephens in New South Wales has a $20 million-a-year Marlin fishery, (and) this type of fishery in Tasmania has that type of potential.” He also explained how similar instances had brought big money to Florida, Mexico and New Zealand.
While Tourism Tasmania is aware of the money making opportunity revealing itself, the influx of fishermen will have severely detrimental effects on the Tasmanian marine life. The long line fishing method used to hook the unsuspecting Swordfish “involves setting baited hooks along a line up to 100km in length behind a boat. The line is deployed at various depths and is a particular threat to several non-target species” as reported by Environment Australia. Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania also reported each year between 7 and 20 tonnes of by-catch (non-target species) are thrown back into the sea either dead or dying. This is further proven through a report conducted by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) indicating that two sharks die for every Swordfish caught and in 2012 uncovered that the Canadian Long line Fishery captures 1200 endangered sea turtles every year.
While the economic health of Tasmanian Tourism is an important issue, the idea that sending a long fishing line into the depths of the sea to disturb wildlife is being promoted should be setting off alarm bells. Killing these creatures purely for human pleasure doesn’t seem like a highly ethical activity.