What exactly do we mean by sustainable harvest. The American Heritage Dictionary definition of sustain is "to keep in existence; to maintain", and harvest means "the gathering in of a crop". Put these together and you get a method of collecting fish (your crop) while maintaining your fish and reef resources at the same time.
Fish conservation and sustainable fishing reforms have been going on Internationally for years with support from a vast array of organizations, groups and individuals. However, too many people choose to ignore the fact that you need to do your share to help. Resolving the over fishing problems of our seas is not an easy task and it takes many people to make a difference. Some of these reforms come in the way of establishing marine sanctuaries, aquaculture/mariculture practices, sustainable harvesting methods, educational conferences, governmental departments, conservation groups, laws, and just plain old fashioned not over fishing. As fisher persons we are responsible for the stewardship of our reef and respect it as such. The biodiversity of the reef and ocean is vital. You cannot just say, ok, no one fish from the sea anymore. Man depends on so many aspects of the sea for nutrition, medicines and much more.
So exactly how do you go about putting into action a practice of sustainable harvesting? Here is what we do, and you can too.
Don't Over fish
All of our filling of orders is based on collecting the fish when we need them. We do not tank or stock a system full of fish and then try and sell them. Collect only what you need, when you need them. Why collect certain fish in large numbers that no one has ordered and sit on them, or send them unwanted to someone who cannot sell them. Of course in the process of collecting, a few miscellaneous fish will be collected, just don't overdo it.
Work Your Collection Area As A "Farm"
For the commonly collected fish, our method is start at one end of our farm area and go down the reef ledge by ledge. Each time we go out to collect fish we DO NOT go back to the same spot. It takes us one year to go from one end of our farm area to the other, then we start over at the beginning again. This has given the reef fish species time to replenish themselves, as we usually get two or three new baby fish flushes (seedings) a year. Not all seedings are the same each year. Some can be abundant ones, and others not so abundant. Be aware of what his happening on the reef at all times. What new flushes have come in and what are the numbers of small fish you are seeing? This will give you a projection for what you will see in the year to come.
Now for species that we only find in particular spots, we go to that spot, take only what we need and do not return to the same spot for at least 3 months. Next time we need more of the same species we pick the next spot in line and rotate these spots throughout the year. Fish are not stupid and if you try to keep going to the same place to collect the same fish, they remember. You'll find that if you return to the spot too soon, or too many times, they are agitated and wise to what you are doing. By waiting this gives the fish a chance to settle down and not disrupt their environment to the point of where they may even evacuate the area. This way you don't over fish the area either.