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New NOAA Fisheries paper looks at continuing research on released fish survival

Winter flounder, one of several species being studied in Northeast cooperative research.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

Catching thresher sharks is on the rise. Fisheries experts are conducting research to determine how to keep the fishery sustainable. Improving gear and encouraging the use of circle hooks is just the beginning. Continuing this valuable team work is a priority in the new Southwest Regional Recreational Fisheries Action Agenda.  Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries

NOAA Fisheries recently completed an evaluation of 15 years (1999-2013) of NOAA-funded research on survival rates for fish that are caught and released in commercial and recreational fisheries. The NOAA Tech Memo summarizes what we have learned and what we still need to learn about improving the survival of released fish and how to account for these releases (discards) in our science and management.

Included in this paper are 17 different studies involving fishermen and scientists from the Northeast. Through our Northeast Fisheries Science Center Cooperative Research Program, we’re learning more about survival rates for flounders (e.g., yellowtail, summer, winter and windowpane), Atlantic cod, dogfish and other species in various trawl, hook-and-line and scallop fisheries.

Why is improving fish survival rates important?

If more fish survive after being caught and released during commercial and recreational fishing operations, fish populations may recover faster. Potentially there also could be increased access to fishing if fishermen use safe handling and fishing practices that improve chances of fish survival. 



Developing the NOAA Tech Memo

In 2013, we brought together state, federal and university scientists to summarize our work on mortality in recreational and commercial fisheries and provide insights into data gaps and research needs. Their findings are outlined in the NOAA Tech Memo. 

The results point to several data gaps related to gathering baseline data on the survival of released and discarded fish, generating estimates of mortality for use in stock assessments and management, and applying what we know as proxies for other species.

In reviewing the science, it also became evident we need a strategy to better understand, account for, and address both recreational and commercial fisheries release and discard mortality moving forward.

What’s next?

This paper will be the subject of symposium during the American Fisheries Society annual meeting in Quebec on August 18, 2014.

Over the next year, we also will develop – in partnership with fishing communities, industry, scientists and managers – an Action Plan to improve estimates of mortality and incorporate better mortality estimates into stock assessment processes. This Action Plan may help guide our research agenda, highlight best practices, and identify ways of working together with fishing communities to improve the survival of released or discarded catch.

Contact Lee Beneka with questions about the scientific review or development of the Action Plan. 

Click here to view the paper and see a list of Northeast and other projects.