Approximately 46 million Americans take to the water each year to enjoy fishing. As one of the most popular pastimes, overfishing and conservation have become serious issues. Between freshwater and ocean fishing, it is the marine species and habitats that are currently in the most danger. Researchers estimate that one-third of all global fish stocks have collapsed and have less than 10 percent of their maximum observed populations.
We’ve been depleting fisheries for hundreds of years. While modern fishing techniques are part of the problem, the balance of fish and their natural habitats have always fluctuated. The difference is that in the past, fishers would simply move to another area and nature would run its course to replenish. However, the human population has expanded so that there is nowhere else to go.
To maintain healthy and productive fish populations, fisheries around the United States do their best to help with habitat management and stocking and educating anglers on ways they can aid conservation efforts while still enjoying their favorite pastime. You canfish responsibly by practicing catch and release, being mindful of water conservation and keeping the environment clean.
Be mindful of your bag limit. If you do not plan on eating the fish you catch, release them back into the water (you can still tell your fish story and share pictures). Keeping fish that are not consumed is a major contributor of species endangerment. When you catch a fish, keep them in water as much as possible so they can breathe. If you have to remove them, make sure your hands are wet or use a wet rag, and never hold them by their eyes or gills. Use a de-hooker to release fish above or in the water, which helps maintain the layer of mucous on the outside of the fish, and try your best to successfully and gently remove all hooks.
Fishing line, unused bait and other trash can be harmful to the ecosystem. Make sure to pick up all your trash, and don’t throw anything in the water. Some sinkers are made of toxic lead which can be harmful to animals. Also, when you go to a new fishing venue, make sure to thoroughly rinse all your gear. If you don’t, you could inadvertently introduce non-native plants or animals into a new habitat, which encourages competition for resources and species survival.