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Reef Report for Monday, November 20, 2006

Cairns Teenager Catches World Record Marlin
Family caught by surprise by reaction.>

Recently Cairns teenager Alex Johnston, a 14-year old Cairns local, caught a 496kg Black Marlin, a world record for his age. It was truly a unique catch, the biggest fish caught locally this year by a boat from Cairns. © AIMS The waters well outside the Great Barrier Reef have been reknowned as a top fishing spot for Marlin.

The local reaction was varied, and perhaps reflects a change in attitudes from the early game fishing days. A crowd of friends, family and interested fisherman crowded the weigh station at the Cairns marina as news of the catch and impending weigh in spread, hoping to be a part of a unique catch. After news of the catch was published in the local paper later reaction unfortunately included threats and uncivil comments.

Alex and his father, who owns and operates a game fishing boat, were dismayed by the negative reaction.

The local marlin big game fishing boats have largely gone to a catch and release operation, where 99% of the fish caught are released, and only trophy-sized fish and those severely injured during the process are killed. Unfortunately, many of the killed trophy-sized fish are not eaten, but towed back outside the reef to be fed to the sharks, an action that some think wasteful and old-fashioned, especially when itís the big female fish like this one that reproduce the most effectively.

Currently not much is known about the status of marlin populations in tropical waters off the Great Barrier Reef, Marlin are not numerous, are highly mobile, and live in waters well offshore, making them very difficult to study. The Australian Institute of Marine Studies does not have enough information to make a good guess as to the status of the marlin population. AIMS states that it believes that the population is recovering from population decline caused by long-line fishing in the past, when they were caught in the fishing effort for tuna. Additional restrictions and regulations set up on long line fishing in the region are thought to have reduced the bycatch of Marlin.

Information on Marlin in Australia

Brisbane Courier Mail coverage of this story.

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as† many other local sources in the dive community.

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