Education is paramount

THE story of the ‘fatal fish gift’ to Meerensee’s wood carvers, as reported on in this week’s ZO Monday edition, has drawn much debate from the public, leading to a ‘trial by social media’ situation.

Whether the act was intentional or not, this story highlights the importance of education and how the onus is on each individual to educate oneself on potential dangers lurking around every corner.

Whether eating freshly caught fish, accepting fish from someone else, picking wild mushrooms or handling snakes, everything boils down to the same motto: if you cannot identify it, leave it alone.

It is better to err on the side of caution than to take potentially deadly risks.

With this in mind, it is wise for every angler and fisherman to include a fish identification book in the tackle box, and an avid mushroom picker to become familiar with the many wild mushroom species.

In areas such as ours where greenbelts abound, every resident should have a snake identification book and the number of a snake handler on speed dial.

And when further expertise is warranted, local conservation officials are always at hand to make positive identifications and give specialist advice.

In the case of the puffer fish incident, fingers have been pointed and commentators have noted that all anglers and fishermen are aware of the deadly poisons contained in the fish’s skin, liver and intestines.

Yet, this particular species occurs only on South Africa’s east coast, from Port Elizabeth to just south of the Mfolozi River. Inland anglers and fishermen may then not be familiar with this species.

Which brings us back to education.

If a fish cannot be identified, do not eat it nor give it to someone else.

An inquest docket has been opened and the incident is under police investigation.

However, the wood carvers failed to take note of the angler’s vehicle registration number or boat name and, given the high volume of anglers in Richards Bay during the Easter holidays and in the run-up to a local fishing competition, police say the likelihood of locating the ‘culprit’ is low.

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