Study in Science reveals recreational fishing takes big bite of ocean catch

global positioning systems to find fish, and powerful, far-ranging boats to travel far offshore technologies that make them every bit as effective as their commercial counterparts.

"Recreational fishing in the ocean has lost much of its art," says Coleman. "Someone with absolutely no fishing ability can go out on a charter boat and bring in a remarkable catch not because they know the environment, but because they rely on the professional, expert fishing knowledge of the captain and crew."

Recreational fishing targets large, top-level predatory fish in the ocean. Removal of these fish can create dramatic changes in ocean food webs and cause cascading effects that alter the overall productivity and health of marine ecosystems. In addition, some fish populations have dropped to such low numbers that they have been considered for placement on the threatened and endangered species lists, including bocaccio (a rockfish) on the Pacific coast which is primarily caught in recreational fisheries (87%), and Goliath grouper which is currently protected from harvest in the southeastern U.S., but is still caught by catch and release.

While the cumulative impact of commercial fishers is constrained by limits on who, where, when and how much fish they can catch, there are no controls on the aggregate impact of recreational fishers. Current management of saltwater recreational fisheries focuses primarily on the individual fisherman -- setting limits on the number and size of fish one can bring in -- without restricting the number of people allowed to fish. Approximately 40% of coastal states do not even require salt-water recreational fishing licenses. No states require a license for people younger than 16, and few require it for anyone fishing from shore.

"Size limits and bag limits are well intentioned, but lead to discarding of fish that are likely dead or dying. Unlike hunting on land, where hunters are licensed and the total take is cont

Contact: Jessica Brown

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