FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas
RECREATIONAL FISHING COMMUNITY
Saltwater recreational anglers continue to improve their conservation of marine fish through catch and release efforts, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today. From 1989 to 1998, the overall release rate by recreational anglers has increased from 45 percent to 57 percent. Recreational anglers also harvested an estimated 194.6 million pounds of marine finfish on nearly 62 million fishing trips in 1998.
"Although the recreational harvest is only about six percent of the total U.S. harvest of fish, it is important to managers because the fishing activities of millions of marine anglers are directed at relatively few species," said Mark Holliday, NOAA Fisheries division chief for statistics and economics. "More than half the total recreational harvest is made up of ten species of popular sport fish."
Recreational fishing data are collected nationwide by the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey. NOAA Fisheries has been conducting the MRFSS survey since 1979 and relies on it to help management make informed decisions regarding sport fishing.
"We have seen a steady increase in the percentage of fish released by recreational anglers since the late eighties," said Holliday. "This increase is probably the combined result of stricter regulations for some species and a growing conservation awareness among anglers."
Officials at NOAA Fisheries said that in the case of bluefish, the angling release rate has increased from 28 percent in 1989 to 55 percent in 1998. For the Atlantic's most valuable sport fish, striped bass, the release rate initially dropped from 97 percent in 1989 to 88 percent in 1990 when Maryland and Delaware lifted their striped bass moratoria. However, the release rate for striped bass then increased to between 89 percent and 93 percent (1991 through 1998). The increasing release rate occurred even though tremendously improved stocks caused regulations to become less restrictive during this period, resulting in increased bag limits and decreased size limits in many states.
Of the states from Maine to Louisiana and Washington through California, Florida led in all measures of saltwater recreational fishing activity in 1998. Florida has led in numbers of participants and numbers of recreational saltwater fishing trips for the tenth straight year. Florida had more than 4.7 million marine anglers, including over two million out-of-state tourists. Together they took over 22.3 million recreational fishing trips in 1998.
California and North Carolina ranked second and third, respectively, in both the number of participants and the number of marine angling trips. New Hampshire ranked last in angling effort with 276,670 marine angling trips, and Georgia ranked last in angling participation with 115,156 marine anglers.
"The large number of participants and the concentrated harvest of few species are two of many reasons why the NOAA Fisheries conducts the recreational survey," said Holliday. "Without this data fishery managers would not have the information necessary to conserve recreationally important species and ensure quality marine angling for future generations."
Texas and Alaska are not currently included in the MRFSS because they conduct their own state surveys for saltwater recreational fisheries, and Hawaii, the western Pacific, and the Caribbean have not been included in the MRFSS since the early 1980s due to funding constraints.
A complete listing of saltwater angling fishing participation, effort, and catch data is available through the Web page: http://www.st.nmfs.gov/st1/recreational/survey/index.htmlindex.html, Office of Science and Technology, Division of Fisheries Statistics and Economics.