Anglers in South Africa, much like the rest of the world, have turned to drones to catch fish with pretty large consequences on the fish and environment. Key stakeholders in the fishing industry worldwide have asked for the government to step in and take charge.

Usually, a person wanting to fish can only go as far out as they can cast their bate, creating a safe environment just beyond the cast distance for the fish and other marine life.

Now that drones are being purposed to take the line out farther, these safe spots of aquatic refuges are becoming some of the most popular fishing spots thanks to many fish and food for the fish in the area.

Bruce Mann, senior scientist at the Oceanographic Research Institute from the SA Association for Marine Biological Research, shared:

Deeper waters beyond casting range serve as refuges to certain fish species and now these previously untouched areas can be exploited. The populations of many important recreational angling fish species have been categorized as collapsed.

The use of extremely effective technology, such as drones, will put more pressure on some of these already vulnerable populations like silver and dusky kob and may drive them over the edge. Additionally, fish caught by drone anglers tend to be much bigger and the fight times needed to land them are longer. This puts additional stress on the animals, which is important if released after capture. Released animals in this tired state are more vulnerable to predation and their chances of survival are greatly reduced.

As these waters are seeing an increase in anglers, more fishing line and other equipment is being left out in the ocean, adding to the ever-growing issue of pollution and possibly killing marine life if it gets stuck or tries to ingest the equipment. Much like normal fishing is monitored, drone fishing must also.

South Africa is taking its first steps to help regulate the high-tech sport and educate anglers better with the creation of the SA Drone Angling Association. Acting chairman Yugen Govender had the following to say:

There is currently no governing body and we want to provide structure to drone angling as well as education, training and assist with licensing and certification. This will prevent the violation of laws and regulations and mitigate harm to the environment and sea life.

A majority of us are not fishing for food, we participate recreationally. Whatever we catch we release. Sustainability and conservation go hand-in-hand with the sport. It is innovation at work, more people are able to fish.

Photo: Zanele Zulu/ANA


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