Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Do catch-and-release guidelines from state and provincial fisheries agencies conform to scientifically-based best practices? Christine A. Pelletier 1,

Similar presentations


Presentation on theme: "Do catch-and-release guidelines from state and provincial fisheries agencies conform to scientifically-based best practices? Christine A. Pelletier 1,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Do catch-and-release guidelines from state and provincial fisheries agencies conform to scientifically-based best practices? Christine A. Pelletier 1, Kyle C. Hanson 2, and S.J. Cooke 1,2 1 Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa,ON, Canada, K1S 5B6 2 Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa,ON, Canada, K1S 5B6 ABSTRACT Many recreational anglers practice catch-and-release (C-&-R), where fish are returned to the water with the presumption that they will survive. However, not all fish survive and those that do often experience significant sublethal consequences. There is compelling scientific evidence that angler behaviour and gear choice can affect the success of C-&-R as a management and conservation strategy. Because anglers often look to government natural resource agencies for guidance on how to handle and release fish properly, there is a need to assess whether their outreach materials provide the necessary information on the subject. Therefore, we evaluated the on-line C-&-R guidelines, developed by state and provincial natural resource agencies across North America, to determine whether their guidelines were consistent with the best available scientific information. We found that there is immense variation in the depth and breadth of coverage among jurisdictions. Agency guidelines contradicted one another in several areas including air exposure and resuscitation. In many cases, the guidelines failed to provide sufficient direction to actually be of use to anglers or provide direction consistent with contemporary scientific literature. This analysis will assist in developing consistent outreach materials that promote sustainable recreational fisheries and that maintain the welfare status of individual fish. BACKGOUND It is estimated that nearly 12% of the North American population engages in recreational fishing on a regular basis. Many anglers practice C-&-R, where fish are captured and released immediately or following a brief retention period. From a fisheries management standpoint, it is critical that fish are minimally impacted by capture and handling. Unfortunately, mortality rates for released fish have been shown to exceed 90% in some species. There is scientific evidence that fish mortality could be reduced with the adoption of safer C-&- R practices Because anglers often look to government natural resource agencies for guidance on how to handle and release fish properly, there is a need to assess whether their outreach materials provide the necessary information on the subject. FINDINGS This study compares the C-&-R guidelines for 51 of 63 North American agencies; 10 Canadian and 39 American. We were unable to locate online guidelines for the remaining 12 agencies (e.g., Iowa, Nevada). Interestingly, a representative from the Nevada Department of Wildlife told us that C-&-R cannot be explained in writing, rather it must be demonstrated in the field (hence no online source of information in Nevada). We found widespread variation in the accessibility of C-&-R guidelines as assessed by quantifying the number of mouse “clicks” required to locate guidelines from the primary agency website homepage. While the average number of clicks required to locate guidelines was 2.84, four guidelines could only be found using a search engine (either agency or Google). Eleven guidelines were accessed via a link directly from the fisheries main page. To assess the relative amount of information available from each agency website, we counted the total number of words in their guidelines. Word count varied extensively, from a low of 25 (New Brunswick) to a high of 1744 (Maryland), with a mean of about 339 words. Here we discuss some of our more interesting findings… HOW IS OMNR (Ontario) DOING? C-&-R guidelines for ON were easily accessible via a link directly on the ‘Let’s Fish Ontario!’ homepage. Word count was among the highest. FINDINGS (cont’d) SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS Our review of catch-and-release guidelines revealed immense variation in the breadth and depth of material presented. However, of more concern is the observation that some agencies actually recommend handling practices that could harm fish. For example, moving fish back and forth in an effort to resuscitate them can actually lead to delayed recovery. There is also substantial contradiction among agency websites making it difficult for anglers to decide which is indeed the best way to handle fish. At the very least, we hope that this synthesis will draw attention to the need to have consistent guidelines from one agency to the next. Inconsistent or vague information is less likely to be taken seriously by anglers and therefore does not help promote effective catch-and-release techniques. There is also a need to have clearer guidelines. For example, we contend that there is a need to move towards developing thresholds for air exposure that anglers can understand and put in practice. Furthermore, rather than simply promoting zero air exposure, we recommend that agencies take a more practical approach and recommend having tools and equipment (i.e. camera) ready so as to minimize air exposure. We contend that agencies face a difficult task in trying to develop generic guidelines for catch- and-release when there is clearly substantial interspecific variation as well as differences in fishing techniques. Agencies are also forced to reconcile conflicting literature accounts, suggesting that more empirical catch-and-release research is needed. Whenever possible, simplified guidelines should be supplemented with detailed scientific accounts with supporting citations (as in Ontario). For specialized fisheries (e.g., muskellunge) or issues (e.g., tournaments, circle hooks), it may be informative to have more detailed and specific guidelines that are linked from the generalized guidelines. Catch-and-release guidelines should be accessible to anglers and thus should be available through a link on the primary agency webpage. Considering increasing angler reliance on the internet for information, online catch-and- release guidelines are not trivial and efforts should be made to verify that they all conform with best scientific information and are revisited regularly to update them pending new data. GOAL AND APPROACH Our goal was to examine existing natural resource agency guidelines and to assess their conformity with the best scientific information on catch-and-release practices. To achieve our goal, we first created a database of on-line C-&-R guidelines developed by every state and provincial natural resource agency across North America. We then developed 46 questions regarding C-&-R. We assessed each online source to determine whether or not agency guidelines were consistent with best available scientific literature. We also identified specific topical area where there was conflicting information (either among agencies – or among agency guidelines and published scientific data). AIR EXPOSURE The science: Studies have shown that air exposure in fish can cause physiological disturbances and mortality. The agencies: The majority (64%) recommend that a fish be kept in the water at all times. Other recommendations included “as little as possible” (25%), “no longer than you can hold your breath” (1%), and “15 seconds” (0.2%). PLAYING TIME The science: Playing time correlates positively with the magnitude of physiological disturbance and time required for recovery. Because playing time is greatly affected by the choice of equipment, anglers should choose optimal equipment matched to the size of fish they are expected to encounter. The agencies: While 80% recommend minimizing playing time, only 16% emphasized the importance of an appropriately sized rod, reel, and line. RESUSCITATION The science: For a fish to efficiently transfer oxygen from the water to its blood, the water must pass over the gills in the opposite direction of blood flow, forming a gradient. In other words, water must flow from front to back for it to properly oxygenate the blood. Thus, fish should not be resuscitated in a back-and-forth manner. The agencies: Roughly half (45%) recommended moving the fish ‘back and forth’ in the water, 16% holding the fish facing upstream, 6% moving the fish slowly forward, 0.2 % moving the fish in an S-shaped pattern, and 0.2% moving the fish side to side. BARBLESS HOOKS The science: There is compelling evidence that barbless hooks are easier to remove than barbed hooks. Ease of removal results in reduced handling time and tissue damage, thereby decreasing associated mortality. However, there is some contradictory data in the literature. The agencies: Many agencies (70%) recommended barbless hooks as an alternative to barbed hooks. CIRCLE HOOKS The science: In general, hooking mortality rates are reduced by ~50% by using circle hooks relative to J-style hooks. This is attributed to circle hooks having a tendency to jaw-hook fish, rather than gut-hook. The agencies: Few agencies (10%) recommended using circle hooks in place of the conventional J-style hooks. TEMPERATURE The science: The risk of angling-induced mortality increases exponentially when water temperatures exceed a given threshold (i.e. 18 o C for Atlantic salmon). Fish exposed to freezing air for any length of time can suffer from frozen eyes and gills. The agencies: Some agencies (14%) recommended that angling be restricted when water temperatures are at their highest, and 4% discuss the problems associated with cold water temperatures. South Dakota is the only agency to address both extremes. The OMNR is one of 8 agencies that recommended using properly sized gear in order to minimize playing time; 1 of 3 agencies (among the 6% total) of agencies that warned against angling during extremely cold days in the winter. However, there is no mention of the impacts associated with warm water. Unlike most agencies, OMNR actually has a more technical document that is available in addition to their simplified online guidelines. This document (Catch- and-release angling: A review with guidelines for proper fish handling practices Casselman, OMNR) is available via a separate link called ‘publications’. We recommend that there be a link from the general guidelines to the more comprehensive document so that anglers can easily find background information and justification for various recommendations. Overall, OMNR guidelines were within the top 5 of all agencies in North America. Although there were some things that they did not cover, little of the information was factually incorrect. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Funding provided by Carleton University. We also thank Fred Michel of the Environmental Science Institute and the many state and provincial biologists that assisted with this project. Diddick MD MNR


Download ppt "Do catch-and-release guidelines from state and provincial fisheries agencies conform to scientifically-based best practices? Christine A. Pelletier 1,"

Similar presentations


Ads by Google