In 2011, approximately 324 million saltwater fish were caught by recreational fishermen with anglers releasing roughly 62% of of their catch. According to NOAA, anglers often practice catch-and-release voluntarily. In addition, management measures often require anglers to release fish. Both situations result in a need to minimize mortality of released fish.
To address issues such as catch and release, a cooperative program is underway. FishSmart is a program that brings together anglers, scientists, and fishery managers. Supported by NOAA, FishSmart uses a collaborative, proactive approach to address fishing mortality while enhancing recreational fishing.
The FishSmart concept was discussed at the 2010 Saltwater Recreational Fishing Summit hosted by NOAA. Following the summit, FishSmart was incorporated in the NOAA Action Agenda.
The FishSmart initiative could benefit anglers by:
- identifying best practices that could increase survival rates of released fish
— targeting research to help improve the survival of released fish
- improving cooperation between recreational anglers, fisheries management bodies, and conservation organizations
The program will include a series of workshops to find ways to fish smarter and promote conservation.
At FishSmart workshops, stakeholders will study the following issues:
- understanding of released fish survival
- equipment to improve released fish survival
- catch and release fishing techniques
- communication of best practices
- input to management bodies
In Florida, the first workshop for 2012 focused on the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic fisheries.
There are two more workshops planned for 2012:
In May, stakeholders will meed in Portland, Oregon to discuss recreational fisheries of the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii.
Another workshop will focus on fisheries of the northeast and mid-Atlantic (date and location to be determined).
For more information – www.fishsmart.org