Do we need species-specific guidelines for catch-and-release recreational angling to effectively conserve diverse fishery resources?

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Catch-and-release recreational angling has become very popular as a conservation strategy and as a fisheries management tool for a diverse array of fishes. Implicit in catch-and-release angling strategies is the assumption that fish experience low mortality and minimal sub-lethal effects. Despite the importance of this premise, research on this topic has focused on several popular North American sportfish, with negligible efforts directed towards understanding catch-and-release angling effects on alternative fish species. Here, we summarise the existing literature to develop five general trends that could be adopted for species for which no data are currently available: (1) minimise angling duration, (2) minimise air exposure, (3) avoid angling during extremes in water temperature, (4) use barbless hooks and artificial lures/flies, and (5) refrain from angling fish during the reproductive period. These generalities provide some level of protection to all species, but do have limitations. Therefore, we argue that a goal of conservation science and fisheries management should be the creation of species-specific guidelines for catch-and-release. These guidelines would take into account the inter-specific diversity of fishes and variation in fishing techniques. As recreational angling continues to grow in popularity, expanding to many developing countries, and targeting alternative species, it is important that reasonable data appropriate for specific fish and fisheries are available. The sustainable use and conservation of recreational fishery resources will depend upon the development and dissemination of effective catch-and-release angling strategies based upon sound science to stakeholders around the world.

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