Limiting fishing to catch and release may not solve the problem either. At least 20% of released fish end up dying, according to NMFS stock assessments for many species. For deep water species, this number is much higher. In addition, impressively large species like goliath grouper may well survive a catch-and-release encounter, but face repeated stress from successive catches. "Because they tend to move very little outside of the spawning season, an individual is easy to find and a single fish can be targeted repeatedly. A goliath grouper near one of my study sites had 20 hooks in its mouth," says Coleman. "Bringing up a 400 pound fish onto your boat creates a marvelous photo opportunity, but it undoubtedly causes enormous physiological stress on the fish. And catching it is about as exciting as pulling up a Volkswagen."
"In some ways, recreational fishing is where commercial fishing was 20 years ago with very weak controls and rapidly increasing numbers of fishermen," says Federal Ocean Commissioner Andrew Rosenberg, of the University of New Hampshire and former Deputy Director of NMFS. "The challenge is to come up with new ways to balance the increase in the number of people fishing with the need to reduce the number of fish caught and killed. The stocks can't sustain the increasing pressure and the only way to ensure we will have fish in the future is to leave more in the water now."
"This study is a rigorous compilation and analysis of data about recreational fishing that is long overdue and much needed," says Pew Ocean Commissioner and marine ecologist Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University. "The availability of a credible analysis of such a controversial topic will greatly assist decision-making. Policy makers and fishery managers should now be able to move beyond assertions and begin to address
Contact: Jessica Brown