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Let the fish breed

Dawn Gibson
Monday, June 09, 2014

BREEDING season for grouper fish such as kawakawa and donu is particularly important because of the way they breed.

Males and females capable of breeding group together and travel through the ocean for months waiting for the perfect current, at the perfect time before the breeding takes place — and this bit usually only takes a couple of minutes.

If this process is disrupted by fishermen, or by commercial fishing vessels — a large portion of the breeding male and female populations are removed from the ecosystem before they've had a chance to reproduce any further.

This impacts the ocean environment, but it also directly affects us as consumers.

A 2013 publication from the Fisheries Ministry, Reef Explorer Fiji and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation explains that alternatives to consume include mangrove or mud crabs, qari dina (at a recommended size of at least 15cm), mangrove red snappers, damu (at a recommended size of at least 30cm) and emperor fish, kabatia (at a recommended size of at least 25cm).

Recommended size limits are of particular importance because they protect juvenile fish still growing from being caught before they have had the chance to breed.

Too often, people sell undersized crabs, lobsters, and other fish at marketplaces. This needs to stop, so take into account these recommended size limits when you're next at the market looking for fish.

The yellowtail emperor, or sabutu, is another fish to consider at a recommended size of at least 30cm, the parrotfish, ulavi, which are common at markets (at a recommended size of at least 25cm) and trevallies, saqa, at a recommended size of at least 40cm.

Those who often fish barracuda, ogo, or buy them at the market should try to get them at recommended lengths of at least 60cm, the booklet suggests, adding that for rabbitfish, or nuqa lovers, the recommended length is at least 25cm.

So, it may be handy, the next time you go fishing or to the market, to take a ruler with you to be sure you're not buying undersized fish.

Don't just practise this for the next four months, during grouper breeding season, try and make it a habit.

Fish should be bought at recommended lengths, not any smaller.

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