Why Does Marine Fisheries Management Now Require Releasing Caught Fish?
G. C. Matlock
Until about 20 years ago, the commonly held view was that the ocean and its resources were so vast and bountiful that it was virtually impossible for man, more precisely fishing, to affect them in any significant way. That view, however, was replaced in 1996 with a federal regulatory environment which requires the reversing of the overfished condition of many marine fish stocks by accounting for and managing all sources of fishing mortality. The effects of catching, not just harvesting, fish by all fishers, including recreational, were formally recognized and now these effects must be minimized. Catch and release is indeed becoming an integral part of U.S. marine fisheries. Atlantic billfish now support the first formally designated federal recreational catch and release program, and there are now 25 other species (not including Pacific salmonids listed under the Endangered Species Act) for which their retention when caught in federal waters is prohibited. Unfortunately, the application of catch and release is far outpacing our ability to predict its success.