SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Recreational Fishing

Animals in Entertainment, Sport, and Work

SPCA advocates that recreational fishers adopt appropriate fishing practices and gear that minimise the welfare harms to fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Fish and some species of aquatic invertebrates (e.g. octopus, squid, cuttlefish, lobsters, crayfish and crabs amongst others)are sentient animals capable of experiencing pain and distress. Humans have a duty of care to ensure fish and aquatic invertebrates are treated humanely. Fishing practices can cause pain, injury, or distress to fish which should be minimised. Fish and aquatic invertebrate welfare can be negatively affected by sudden changes in their environments including temperature, noise, vibration, oxygen concentration, light intensity and damages to their protective mucous layer. SPCA supports the appropriate handling and release of under-sized (illegal) fish if they are to be released, to allow for rapid recovery of physiological homeostasis and resumption of normal behaviour.

SPCA advocates for the regulation of recreational fishing.

SPCA supports that development of standards and guidelines based on evidence for the capacity of fish to experience pain and distress. Compliance with guidelines should be a condition of recreational fishing licences.

SPCA opposes big game fishing for sport due to the prolonged pain, injury and distress on the fish involved.

SPCA advocates for a ban on the use of “light tackle” to catch big game fish.

The use of light tackle to land a fish who weighs many times the breaking strain of the tackle prolongs the pain and distress suffered by the fish. Tackle should be sufficiently robust to ensure the landing of the fish efficiently and quickly, and the fish must immediately be humanely killed.

SPCA advocates that all recreational fishers, must use the most humane method possible for killing fish and aquatic invertebrates they have caught.

Fish, aquatic invertebrates or other animals not being released must be killed immediately after capture and, if possible before unhooking, by an appropriate method. At present, humane methods of stunning and slaughter of fish that include this is the “ikijime method” (also known as ikejime or brain spiking) and percussive stunning (e.g. a sharp blow to the cranium using a heavy, blunt object), followed by exsanguination (bleeding-out). SPCA supports mandatory fishing licences and recommends that training in methods of humane stunning and slaughter should be a requirement of gaining the licence.

SPCA opposes the use of live bait in game or other types of recreational fishing.

SPCA opposes the practice of using live animals, e.g. crayfish, fish, and other sentient animals, as a lure for fish because of the pain and distress it causes to the animal used as bait. Recreational fishers should encourage the use of non-animal bait.

SPCA supports the use of tackle and gear that is appropriate for the size and type of fish or other aquatic animal targeted.

SPCA supports the use of tackle and gear that minimises landing duration, air exposure and injury; avoids hooking outside the mouth region or deep-hooking whenever possible, and allows safe landing.

SPCA opposes the use of lead products in recreational fishing because of the negative impacts it causes to animals and the environment from contamination.

SPCA supports the use of lead-free fishing tackle as an alternative to products containing lead. SPCA advocates for all people who fish to act responsibly in relation to their impact on the environment and the animals which live there, including maintenance and decontamination of fishing vessels and disposing of alltackle and fishing gear appropriately.

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