Discouraging Trophy Fishing For Threatened Species

Researchers from North America came together to investigate whether trophy fishing, as promoted by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), inherently compromises conservation of endangered species. It is well known that overfishing is one of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity. Selective fishing on a mass scale lead to declines in marine fish population size and body size.

Trophy fishing is a form of hobby fishing when the largest individuals of a species are targeted. The goal here is to catch record-sized specimens. Previous studies have shown that the capture of a trophy sized fish is the driving factor in satisfaction of fishermen and thus is often a very strong motivator. The need for confirmation of a record catch often renders catch-and-release impossible as the captured fish has to be taken to a standardized scale on land. Nevertheless, the researchers point out that catch and release is not necessarily any better for the fish: many (depending on gear, angler behaviour, environmental conditions, etc.) end up suffering post-release mortality.

Surely, recreational trophy fishing cannot be as threatening as commercial fishing? As it turns out, fecundity (i.e. reproductive capacity), larval quality and offspring survival correlate strongly with size in fishes. This, combined with the fact that the number of eggs a female fish can produce is greatly dependent on the volume of the individual, reveals the true danger of trophy fishing. 

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