Robert Arlinghaus with a sea trout he caught off the Danish coast CHRISTIAN SKOV

Q&A: Why fishery managers need to overhaul recreational fishing rules

For environmental conflict and political drama, it’s hard to beat fishing. Almost all the fish consumed by developed countries comes from industrial fisheries, which generate not just a lot of revenue, but controversy over their impact, such as accidentally harming seabirds or scraping the sea floor. Meanwhile, recreational fishing usually escapes notice. Although it also has a large impact, both environmental and economic, amateur fishing is often ignored by regulators or swept under the same kind of rules as commercial fishing.

This needs to change, researchers argue in a commentary published online yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS).

Each year, recreational anglers catch an estimated 47 billion fish. About half are let go, but there can be a sizable impact on fish stocks. Populations can be depleted in small lakes, for example. Intense fishing can cause fish to evolve to smaller sizes and adopt new behaviors. And some management practices designed to please freshwater anglers, such as the release of popular but nonnative species, can harm biodiversity. Off the coast, saltwater anglers are sometimes chasing the same fish as commercial boats, leading to conflicts between the two groups.

Researchers have been thinking about how to improve management of recreational fisheries and reduce conflicts, and a group of experts offers recommendations in the PNAS article. ScienceInsider spoke with one of the lead authors, biologist Robert Arlinghaus of Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin. Arlinghaus is also an avid angler. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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