The American Sportfishing Association announced the launch of a new project to improve the survival of caught-and-released fish in the South Atlantic, as part of the FishSmart program.
The new FishSmart Red Snapper and Red Drum Conservation Project seeks to promote best practices for releasing fish and encourage greater awareness and use of tools proven to improve fish survival.
Working in partnership with state fish and wildlife agencies, industry and other organizations, descending devices for deep water fish and short leader rigs for red drum will be distributed to anglers throughout the region, along with best practices for handling and releasing fish.
Through participant surveys, information will be gathered on the use of these tools and techniques that can help form better management decisions in the future.
In the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, many reef fish like red snapper are being released due to short seasons and high rates of encounter. Without proper handling techniques, a significant percentage of released fish die, to the detriment of fisheries conservation and future fishing opportunities.
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“We’re always working on ways to help increase fish survival rates and showcase the work anglers and industry do as conservationists,” said ASA conservation director Mike Leonard in a statement. “The aim of FishSmart is to further bolster the recreational fishing community’s stewardship of the fisheries we enjoy. Through education and awareness, we expect to make a positive impact on fish populations and keep these fisheries robust for years to come.”
This South Atlantic project builds upon the success of a similar FishSmart project recently conducted in the Gulf of Mexico. From 2015 to 2017, the program – coordinated through ASA’s FishAmerica Foundation – recruited more than 1,100 anglers to use best practices for saltwater catch and release, which included the use of descending devices, such as the SeaQualizer – a tool that rapidly returns fish to the depth in which they were caught, allowing them to re-acclimate for a successful release.
It’s estimated that 3,000 to 9,000 red snapper lowered to their original depth survived because of the descending device. The survival rate of the approximately 22,000 reef fish, or other species that anglers reported releasing, was also improved.
“We learned a great deal about anglers and their habits, techniques and overall viewpoints during FishSmart’s initial launch,” said Martin Peters, senior manager of communications and government relations at Yamaha Marine Group – one of the program’s chief supporters.
“By showing how increased use of best practices for releasing fish can lead to healthier fisheries, we are not only promoting fisheries conservation but also allowing for greater fishing opportunities,” Peters said. “With healthy fisheries, everybody wins.”