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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
www.sciencemag.org SCIENCE VOL 305 27 AUGUST 2004 1235
Call it the mystery of the disappearing fish.
Despite decades of tighter restrictions
on commercial fishing, the populations of
many U.S. fish stocks have continued to
decline. The puzzle intrigued marine
ecologist Felicia Coleman of Florida State
University in Tallahassee nearly a decade
ago, when she served on a government
panel that helps set regional catch limits.
Coleman noticed that recreational fishers
were hunting many of the at-risk species
the council was trying to protect. While
commercial fishers were on the regulatory
hook, were sport anglers the ones that
got away?
The notion that hobby anglers pose a
major threat to marine fish is controversial.
Many U.S. sportf ishing groups, for instance,
have opposed restrictions on their
pastime by claiming just 2% of the overall
fish landings-despite estimates that 50
million Americans participate in the sport.
These low-catch claims have been politically
persuasive, says Andrew Rosenberg,
a marine biologist at the University of New
Hampshire in Durham and a former deputy
director of the National Marine Fisheries
Service. "It's hard to convince people that
one guy on a boat could be causing a problem,"
he says.
That may be about to change, however,
thanks to Coleman. In an extensive analysis
of fisheries data published online this
week by Science (www.sciencemag.
org/cgi/content/abstract/1100397), her research
team concludes that sportfishers
are having a much bigger impact on marine
populations than had been thought-
and that they represent the major human
threat for some species. Sportfishers are
responsible for the vast majority of the
landings of some at-risk species, according
to the study, and have landed about
5% of the average annual catch over the
last 2 decades.
Such numbers highlight the need for
new restrictions on sportfishing, say marine
conservationists, including barring anglers
from new "no-take" reserves in
coastal waters. Sportfishing groups, however,
say the statistics don't necessarily
support that solution. "You don't need to
stop people from enjoying the outdoors" to
protect fish, says Michael Nussman, president
of the American Sportfishing Association
(ASA) in Alexandria, Virginia.
To obtain the new numbers, Coleman's
group cast a wide net, collecting 22 years'
worth of landings data from state and federal
agencies. Overall, they found that
recreational landings accounted for 4% of
the 4 million metric tons of marine finfish
brought back from U.S. waters in 2002 (the
most recent year for which statistics are
available). But sport anglers had a much
bigger impact on some species and in
some regions. When the researchers focused
on several dozen overfished species
such as red snapper and red drum, they
found that one-quarter were being landed
by recreational fishers. Sport anglers take
one-third of the catch of at-risk species in
the South Atlantic and two-thirds of those
in the Gulf of Mexico.
The study also questions another bit of
conventional wisdom-that sport fishers
do less harm to marine ecosystems than
commercial fleets. Not so, report the researchers,
because they often hunt top
predators, causing ripple effects throughout
the ecosystem. "It doesn't matter
whose hook is in the water," Coleman says.
"This is by far the best assembly of
landings data" to date, says Ray Hilborn, a
f isheries scientist at the University of
Washington, Seattle. He says it shows that
"the recreational f ishing industry is a
much bigger problem than it would like to
think it is." Rosenberg predicts that the
findings will have political ramifications
by bolstering opposition to "freedom to
f ish" bills that have been introduced in
Congress (S. 2244 and H. 2890) and in a
dozen coastal states. The bills seek to
counter growing efforts to establish nofishing
zones by forcing government officials
to show that alternative approaches
won't help threatened species.
Recreational fishers, meanwhile, note
that the landings data underpinning the
study can be notoriously unreliable. And
even if the numbers are accurate, they argue
that no-take zones should be a last resort.
"We have a good track record of
conservation," says ASA's Nussman, noting
that traditional restrictions-such as
catch limits and seasonal closures-have
helped restore some threatened populations,
such as striped bass along the Atlantic
coast. "We'll do what we need to do
to fix the problem."
Marine researchers, however, aren't
convinced that traditional approaches will
be enough to protect
dwindling stocks.
Even bag limits,
Coleman notes, only
restrict the number
of fish that can be
caught by an individual
f isher, not
the total number
caught by all sport
anglers. "Right now,
it's open access for
recreational f ishers,"
she says. "We
need to fix that."
C o m m e r c i a l
fishers, meanwhile,
are happy to be out
of the spotlight.
Studies like Coleman's
support what commercial captains
have been saying for years, says Robert
Jones, executive director of the Southeastern
Fisheries Association in Tallahassee,
Florida: "We're not the only ones
causing the problem." Still, Jones is skeptical
that the new data will produce policy
change. "The recreational fishing industry
has very strong political connections,"
he says.
The strength of those connections will
be tested early next year. That's when
several state legislatures are expected to
consider freedom-to-fish proposals. The
next Congress also plans to resume work
on a major overhaul of federal fisheries
Sportfishers on the Hook for
Dwindling U.S. Fish Stocks
New findings are likely to fuel debate over proposals to bar recreational anglers from
some coastal waters
Drumming up controversy. Sport anglers may be a major threat to
some overfished species, such as this red drum.
Published by AAAS

· Member
14,998 Posts
Ive been catching Bull Reds for more than thirty years and the population has definiately inceased . There are more now than there has been in my lifetime. I was a senior in high school in 1978 and got out of school at 12:00 noon everyday. WEll I fished every day that month of sept,(having grown up in Galveston) and only caught 22 bull reds for the month. You can catch that many in one day during sept. these days. And Ive caught as many (and released) 38 in one day .. Praise the Lord


· Registered
1,383 Posts
I'm with your Redfishr...I've been fishing for bull reds since about '68...I've never
seen as many as we have now....Those guys [Coleman & His Co-hearts] must be
on Drugs. How can 4% of total catch of these over fished species be responsible
for that species decline or lack of recovery, unless only 5% or so are of breeding
Having been a bureaucrat myself, I know that a majority of them revolve in their
own little world, with no contact with the real world...

· Registered
2,359 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I know... I look at it this way... I fish probably an average amount that a recreational fisherman fishes every year. When I think about how much fish I eat and whether I caught it or whether I'm buying it at the fishmarket or at a restaurant, I'd say that my recreational fishing accounts for about 10% of the total pounds of fish I eat per year. Now, having said that, 90% must be commercial caught and sold. What about the majority of people that don't fish. If you look at my family in the same way, that number goes down. I'd say, for most consumers, the number is 100% commercial. That having been said too, how can recreational fishing account for 2/3 rds... I don't get it. Must be vudo economics again. I'd venture to say that there is "another" agenda behind these numbers. I'd like to spend two minutes asking a few questions of these "scientists"

Question No. 1: Do you belong to or support Greenpeace? (Answer - and I'd bet $1m on this one - "Yes")

Question No. 2: Do you consider yourself conservative, moderate or liberal? (That answer's probably hard to figure out)

Question No. 3: Do you support "no fish" zones and did you before you compiled your data? (Answer I'd bet is "Yes")

Question No. 4: What are your error coefficents in your number crunching? (For you guys who don't know - in statistics, you can increase your error coefficients such that you can make the numbers show anything you want but they are not recognized as "scientific" once they get beyond a certain level) -- I'd bet their error numbers are pretty big on this one.

Finally, very few recreational fisherman are not sportsman.. .most offshore fisherman are some of the best conservationists I know.. this is just another bout of "anti" this and "anti" that... the no fish zone folks needed a "poster boy" study.. now they've got one. They've found their pidgeon... lets see how much [email protected]@p it drops...

· Unrecoverable Saltoholic
467 Posts
Just a couple of quick observations after this article:

Since when is 5% of the yearly catch over the last 2 decades a vast majority? So, who caught the other 95%? Uh-huh...Yeah.

But sport anglers had a much
bigger impact on some species and in
some regions. When the researchers focused
on several dozen overfished species
such as red snapper and red drum, they
found that one-quarter were being landed
by recreational fishers. Sport anglers take
one-third of the catch of at-risk species in
the South Atlantic and two-thirds of those
in the Gulf of Mexico.
Why did she choose 22 years worth of data? Hmm? How long ago did the redfish wars make red drum a non-comm species? I bet it's pretty close to 22 years ago, and does this "research" take into account those states where red drum are classified as sportfish, thus eliminating the comm harvest, and raising the percentage taken overall by sportfishermen?

So, I wonder who paid her grant to produce this "study"?

Heading out in a couple of hours to try and raise those recreational percentages some more....

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