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Will Wragg

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A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 07:03:19 AM
Bula all,

I am facing a conundrum, and would value your thoughts.

I have been running a diving and fishing operation in Fiji for the last 14 years. Our clients (from a honeymoon resort) are not hardcore anglers, and are happy with a spaniard for their dinner. However we do catch Gts on the troll, and I target them specifically when I fish by myself.

I have always returned my fish, and have promoted catch and release on guest's trips. Over the last couple of years, we have made it mandatory to release Gts (and billfish and sharks). All of our big poppers have debarbed hooks.

My fishing guides are from a local village, and it took a while to convince them to return anything, but we have worked together for years, and they know how much I love Gts. They get to keep most other fish they catch.

Unfortunately, a new expat owned operator, based at a neighbouring resort, is plastering dead Gts all over it's Facebook site. I am on reasonably friendly terms with the Australian owner, and during an amicable conversation, I broached the subject. He said that he was happy to release Gts , but his guests wanted them to eat.

I wonder if a gentle push from forum members might convince him. However, I do understand that it may be the policy of gtpopping not to get involved, and I fully respect this- hence I have not mentioned names or locations at this point.

I look forward to your feedback,

Many thanks,

Will Wragg

You may say this is sour grapes. You're damn right- I've been catching and returning Gts from these reefs since 1999. I have no issue with locals taking whatever they catch to eat or sell, but expats should know better.

Brandon Khoo

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 08:03:27 AM
Will, thank you for posting this thread.

I must say that I find it very odd that the guests want to eat the GTs. It is the guests who want to eat the GT or is it the deckies and statf etc who take the GTs as part of their pay? I know of very, very few people who eat GTs because it is their fish of choice. There are far better fish for eating that are probably even easier to catch than GTs.

This forum and our sister site www.giant-trevally.com promotes catch and release which is about as much as we can practically do.

I would be interested in what our members might suggest.

If it swims; I want to catch it!

Will Wragg

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 08:18:10 AM
Brandon,

Thanks for the prompt response.

Most of the 'fishermen' going on these trips are not educated in which fish species are good to eat, and for them any big fish is a trophy to show the new wife. They probably do eat a small portion, but for sure the rest will be going to the staff.

Our catch and release policy is written in our resort's room compendium, plus mentioned verbally as part of our booking policy. We also display the Giant Trevally.com release sticker in our boat and on our tackle box.

The sort of comment I was hoping for was a comment on their Facebook site along the lines of "nice Gts, shame they were killed", nothing more aggressive than that.

Kind regards,

Will

Alex Jordan

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 08:20:08 AM
Raising the spectre of ciguatera poisoning?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciguatera


Brandon Khoo

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 08:24:55 AM
That would be a fair point to post!
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Will Wragg

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 10:03:52 AM
Alex,

Thanks for the input.

Ciguatera is very uncommon in this area of Fiji. Unfortunately, and I mean unfortunately, no one I have spoken to has ever heard of poisoning from eating trevally. To be honest the locals eat anything, including Red Bass. My girlfriend once had a mild case of ciguatera from eating "coral trout" in a Nadi restaurant, but that's about it.

Ironically, we had some English anglers on board this morning. They caught a nice Gt on a deep diving minnow, and were very pleased to return it.

Will

Mark Harris

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 11:39:58 AM
Hey Will

I suspect we get a fairly similar guest profile in Bali as you do in Fiji, and your explanation sounds very familiar to me. We get a lot of guys who probably do not fish much but like the idea of a go (usually trolling) when they are on holiday. 

In my experience, it is not too hard to make a case to those guests about cNr for GTs - poor eating, future livelihood of the charter business, pictures tell a thousand words, etc etc. However, to do that the operator must be on-side - that's the key.  Gentle pushing on a Facebook site is definitely worth a go and I am sure members here will help you with that.

Will Wragg

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 12:03:58 PM
Thank you Mark.

Yes we are in the same boat!

If you wish to comment, have a look at Let's Get Wet Water Adventures Facebook page. Ok they're only small Gts, but every one is precious.

This is not a personal issue, more one of education and peer pressure. it is certainly not restricted to this one operator.

Will

David Noble

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 04:16:09 PM
Hi Will,

It's sounds totally up to the owner and crew, I'd simply say don't troll so close to the reef edge! The guests wont know where the table fish are and going wider will still get them small tuna, spanish, mahi mahi etc. The Fijian's know what is food and what isn't, a GT is still suitable for the table.  I've eaten Red Bass in Fiji, as it was caught in a part of the reef not effected by ciguatera.

You need to put the pressure on the owner to help change the situation. I don't think Fijian guides are too concerned about Facebook...

Cheers David

note - I'm confused who's fishing boat is it?  It's not your crew is it?  But the other boat that's knocking them on the head!
Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 04:18:25 PM by David Noble

David Noble

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 04:37:16 PM
OK so I've stayed at Amunuca resort! Are you at Tokoriki? (which is beautiful)

We had a very poor stay at Amunuca, it's management run it like a sausage factory, we felt for the staff. 

The food was so bad we walked around to eat at Tokoriki until they (Amunuca) fenced off the path to keep us locked in. The complaints the week we were there were pretty heated.
Shame really, that's not the Fiji we love.

The fishing watersports owner is based in Whitsundays no?  It's a separate company entirely from Amunuca.  I went out 1 late arvo on the boat, then after that decided I'd be better off the resorts kayaks, which i did!

Good luck with this.
Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 04:39:47 PM by David Noble

Brandon Khoo

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 09:05:35 PM
David, how on earth can they stop you from going over?!


The food was so bad we walked around to eat at Tokoriki until they (Amunuca) fenced off the path to keep us locked in. T
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Graham Scott

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 09:11:15 PM
Hi Will,
As an ex-charter operator I feel for you.
There is no easy answer, but I have a few thoughts.

Firstly management, legislation, Fisheries patrols rarely work in marine management as the challenge of enforcement is too great..when was the last time any of us have been pulled up by authorities? For me it's about once every 10 years.
What is far more effective is bottom up management based on a more personal respect of what's right and wrong. We have a fairly good regime in central Queensland where most fishers actually respect the environment and understand the need for conservation.
I understand the concept that many cultures still see fishing primarily as a source of food and not a recreation. It's difficult for indigenous people to differentiate fishing for themselves within traditional boundaries to assisting in an international tourism industry with a completely different set of parameters.
I think education is important and try to get the message across that fish like GT's are more valuable to tourists and to locals alive than they are dead.
I like your tactics and agree that a bit of Facebook pressure will help. I also think that if you have your local staff "converted" to catch and release then they are a powerful force to convert many others to the same view.
Mate it's tough, I used to take charter guests to catch reef fish then do some trolling and popping once we had a nice feed of fish. Another operator got a few of my marks and took about 700 nannygai (sea perch) in a few weeks  from a small area we used to take about 100 per year for the preceding 10 years. There are no longer any fish on this spot. What he did was entirely legal, but dumb. He is no longer in business, and I quit as well.

My decision was partly economic and partly that I could not personally come to terms with the disrespect many guests had for the quality of the fishing experience we were providing. Sorry getting off topic.

Work from the bottom up, convince locals how much value there is in Cnr. Try and differentiate GT's from other fish. Try to educate your competitor that GT are sedentary and once they're gone so is his business.
We might have to wait another generation or two for real respect for our marine environment, just hope there's a few fish still left

David Noble

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Re: A thorny issue
January 24, 2013, 11:40:30 PM
David, how on earth can they stop you from going over?!


The food was so bad we walked around to eat at Tokoriki until they (Amunuca) fenced off the path to keep us locked in. T

By physically building fences. It was quite bizzaar Brandon. We asked a few staff about how to get around to the other side of the island and neighbouring resort, Tokoriki which we'd read about and is regarded as simply superb. The tide and oyster rocks made that route only passable at lowest tide. Our questions got all types of mixed replies, very fishy indeed. Finally one staff member told us about a path, overgrown and a bit of a hike, but on the other side of the hill we found great food, new friends and lovely resort called Tokoriki.
So we trekked this path for every meal, along with a small number of other guests  from our resort who had the same sentiments. Then our resort got wind of the exodus and then tractors started to pile timber and dig deep holes along the route we took. They wanted to fence us in! The track looked like mortar bombs had been dropped.  Ange was pregnant so the whole thing was quite an adventure. We'd have breakfast at Amanuca and then nick off for lunch, check back in the arvo, quick shower and change then back for dinner.  Each trip there were more obstacles.
We made some great friends over there, ie guests of Tokoriki aswell as some other Amanuca escapees. The T guests couldn't believe our stories!
After dinner of the evening all infidels would gather as a group and the Tokoriki staff would walk us back to the crest of the hill by torch light. After some days of this we were finally met by a solid 6ft wire fence that was being finished by 2 of the staff, who helped Ange and me climb back in before the final wire was set. From then on, it was East and West Berlin. A couple with teenage family had to go over the rocks and ended up being cut up badly. She was furious and threatening all sorts of action against the resort.

Crazy holiday indeed, highlights being.
Ange 6 months pregnant.
Caught a damn big barracuda off their kayak on a Duel stickbait (Foam injected ones, you should see it now), interesting moments dehooking trebles inches from family jewels.
Yamaha longboat filled to the gunwales with the happiest children from neighbouring islands, coming to Amunuca swimming pool for a free for all splash fest, laughs all round.
Amunuca set new standards of worst food in Fiji (and my expectations in Fiji are pretty low already) but every meal was bad, then their Christmas dinner was set at $120pp flat rate, with no other options offered)
Yet Tokoriki set same standards for great food for roughly the same price.
Plotting around breakfast with our small band of infidels, new ways to break out of Alcatraz and into paradise.
Every Fiji resort has great singers, ukulele players blessed with incredible singing voices, Tokoriki's guy topped them all.

Travelling isn't always going to be great...




Last Edit: January 24, 2013, 11:47:07 PM by David Noble

Brandon Khoo

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Re: A thorny issue
January 25, 2013, 07:50:30 AM
David, this is beyond belief  :o
The best and only way to respond to such absurd behavior is to write up a detailed report on Tripadvisor.
If it swims; I want to catch it!

Will Wragg

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Re: A thorny issue
January 25, 2013, 11:09:50 AM
Many thanks to David and Graham for your responses, and Simon for your action.

You'll be glad to know that relations have improved between the two resorts. Most of the land mines have been removed, and some refugees are returning.

Seriously, the path is open, the receiver appointed manager of Amunuca is a good guy, and the resort has new owners. Amunuca will close for a few months for rebuilding, which will give the Gts a respite.

Graham, I agree that government level regulations are not going to work. The Fisheries Department in Fiji are great ( they gave us huge help with our Giant Clam project), but they are underfunded and lack resources.

The best way is for potential customers to put pressure on the owners of unscrupulous or uneducated operations.  When I took over the dive concession here 14 years ago, it was standard procedure to anchor at our dive sites. A Swiss diver told me that he would not do any more dives with us if we continued to drop anchors onto the coral, and since then we have put in moorings or drift. Potential loss of business is more powerful than moaning neighbours, I guess.

David, you have huge experience in this neck of the woods. How do you convince potential operators to embrace responsible sport fishing practices? I think most dedicated GT set ups in Fiji now practice catch and
release, but many resorts, including some high end ones, know little and care less!
I'm glad to say that one of our neighbours, Matamanoa Island Resort, which has been visited by some forum members, is now releasing all Gts.

It's very hard to convince locals to return anything. Obtaining food from the sea is so fundamental to Fijians, and I respect this completely. It took me years to get my guys to put anything back. I give them a bonus when they release billfish (we don't catch many), and they've come round to returning all Gts, plus any sharks we catch by accident. I've explained to them about Gts being resident on reefs and therefore easily fished out, compared to spaniards which come and go, and I've shown them Nomad and Oman footage with big Gts being returned. More tellingly, I've made it company policy, they get paid decent overtime for fishing, plus they can keep most species for the pot.

I'm repeating what other members have posted in the past, but if you're looking to fish with someone in Fiji, or a similar destination, make selective catch and release a proviso of booking, and mention it to your skipper before you set out. Tipping is not expected in Fiji, but if I go somewhere new and put back a fish, I'll always thank the crew in a small way.

Enough of the moralising. If any forum members ever make it over to Tokoriki, I'm always happy for an excuse to go out GT fishing.

Simon, I owe you a case of Fiji Bitter

David, the current Watersports operators at Amunuca are from Melbourne; Reef Safari left some time ago.