Beware of Catch & Release
by John T. Koegler
(from Jersey Coast Anglers Association June 2000 Newsletter)Over 130 fishery researchers, managers, and outdoor media leaders attended a major government sponsored symposium during early December in 1999. During this three-day meeting attendees heard results of new studies and debated the many complexities of angler catch and release fishing. Not recognized by most recreational groups, the symposium's principal objective was to define marine catch and release fishing, not hooking mortality as was widely believed. The meeting produced two main packages, a Research-Fisheries Management Action Agenda and an Education-Outreach Action Agenda.
These two Action Agendas raise serious questions. Do the various government agencies working together intend to limit future angler access to all saltwater fish?
The top three Action Agenda priorities, in my opinion, set a dangerous precedent for catch and release fishing. Following this below-outlined agenda will sharply limit anglers future landings of saltwater fish.
Research-Management priorities (16 items on the full list)
Education-Outreach Action Agenda (21 items on the full list)
1-Develop an overall strategy for better addressing catch and release fishing needs
2-Form angler/industry/government agencies partnerships
This is explained as determining the best way to package and present catch and release information to anglers.
3-Define marine anglers actual acceptance of an effective catch and release fishing ethic
which will positively impact saltwater fisheries!
If any angler believes that recovering fish stocks mean higher bag limits and longer seasons, they better carefully read the top three items in each action agenda. If you still have any doubts review the recent history for Striped Bass, Bluefish, Tog and now Porgies (Scup).
Who will benefit most from anglers conservation ethics and catch and release fishing?
A 12 page summary publication of the symposium is available from Virginia Sea Grant at 1-804-684-7173, fax 1-804-684-7161 or email email@example.com.
A full copy will be available this fall from the American Fisheries Society for about $50.
There is a major meeting on the West Coast to discuss the future of anglers saltwater fishing. Having invested a lot of time, effort and money, this NMFS meeting will also follow an agenda that proposes to limit angler access with smaller bag and season limits.
All catch and release studies document a lower mortality for angler-released fish. Despite these studies major discard mortality is still being deducted for angler quotas.
A good example is recent large Bluefin tuna study results. These tuna have been on the deck of a scientist's boat for up to 15 minutes. Pop-off tags and new data transmitters were carefully installed but take a lot of time. Everyone was surprised when over 95% of these fish survived. After the data tags were released, one thing for sure was documented, tuna fish survive rough handling.
This is far more than can be said of bycatch and discards from any commercial fishery. In fact, recently the commercial quota bycatch and discard set-asides are being eliminated by the council action and then quickly approved by NMFS. This change is being approved one management plan at a time. These council actions are supported by little or NO documented scientific proof. The result of their actions is commercial landings of NOT YET RECOVERED SPECIES are being increased by 10% to 15%. Please, somebody show me the valid scientific evidences that a trawl bycatch and discard swim away and recover.
Shortly, NMFS will begin to specify the size and number of hooks you can fish with. If you think I am wrong or being unreasonable, save this article and read it back to me five years from now in June 2004.
NMFS enforcement has recently prosecuted a few commercial violators for unbelievable massive violations of the fishery management regulations. This is surprising. It is surprising in that it took enforcement agents and their supervisors so many years to begin their work.
Charter boats had better take serious note of NMFS new action agenda. It is a proven fact that bag and season limits destroy an anglers desire to go fishing. In fact, bag limits alone have eliminated more headboats than any other single management action. It is survey documented that anglers do not go fishing to enjoy an ocean cruise. Nor do they go for catch and release. Anglers demand with their money and feet to be able to land fish to eat for dinner or share with family and friends. It does not appear that our various government agencies intend to let their charter boat or headboat customers keep fish in the future.