Recreational Fishing Takes a Bite Out of Depleted Stocks

Introduction:

Felicia Coleman of Florida State University and her colleagues were struck by an apparent contradiction: according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, recreational fishing accounts for only 2 percent of all landings in the country; but recreational fishing is the biggest and sometimes the only fishing pressure on several overfished stocks. So Coleman and her colleagues collected and analyzed landings data for the U.S. (excluding Alaska) for the last nineteen years and found some interesting and surprising patterns1. Commercial fishing is indeed responsible for the vast majority of landings, 96 percent; but if you look at populations that are listed by NMFS as overfished, many are getting hammered by the recreational fisheries. For example, for populations of concern, recreational fishing accounts for 23 percent of all landings nationwide, rising to 38 percent in the south Atlantic and 64 percent in the Gulf of Mexico. Several of the most valued species such as red drum, red snapper and bocaccio are taken primarily by recreational fishers.

We spoke with Dr. Coleman about her work and what it means to fisheries managers, and about how to regulate recreational fishing more effectively and fairly.

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