Friday, April 13, 2007

Ocean Fishermen are Catching and Releasing More Fish These Days

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), recreational anglers reeling in ocean species have been catching more fish in recent years, but they've also been releasing their catch more often.

Ocean sport fishing is a big business, supporting almost 350,000 jobs and contributing $30.5 billion to the US economy, according to NOAA's 2004 report, "The Economic Importance of Marine Angler Expenditures in the United States." Another 2004 report, "Fisheries of the United States," showed that the 10-year trend for fish caught recreationally was up by 11 percent since 1994. However, the number of fish the anglers actually keep has remained flat, showing no significant growth over the past decade - a statistic that points to better catch and release practices by ocean-going anglers. Catch and release fishing is one of the keys to maintaining stable and healthy sport fish populations.

Of the 10 most popular recreational species, the majority of fish (60 percent on average) are released alive. The report identified anglers' top catches as spotted sea trout, Atlantic croaker, summer flounder and striped bass.

Recreational fishing continues to be one of the most popular outdoor sports. Anglers took nearly 82 million saltwater trips in 2003. While participation in marine recreational fishing fell eight percent from the previous year, the 10-year trend is still positive with the number of anglers up seven percent and the number of trips up nine percent.