The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) today announced the next phase of the sportfishing industry's commitment to conservation with the launch of the FishSmart Tackle program. The program was announced during the industry's annual trade show, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) being held July 11 – 13, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. ASA, the sportfishing industry's trade association, is the show's producer.
"In fresh water we've done a great job in reducing fish mortality with fish that anglers catch," said ASA's President and CEO Mike Nussman. "More than 80 percent of anglers who caught fish that they could have kept, reported releasing some of them. In saltwater alone, the number of released fish exceeds 200 million annually, and with increasing regulations such as size limits, bag limits and seasons this number is sure to grow."
"However," as Nussman noted, "One of the keys to successful catch and release efforts is having the right kind of tackle that improves the chance that released fish will live. The overall FishSmart program is designed to address this and other fisheries conservation issues, such as angler education, head on."
A collaborative effort between the recreational fishing industry, anglers, federal and state fisheries managers and scientists, FishSmart is focused on developing fishing techniques, management approaches and tackle that reduce the catch of fish that need to be returned to the water and improving the survival of fish that are released.
"We know that anglers as a group are very conservation minded," continued Nussman. "Our industry too has a long and storied history of advancing fisheries resource conservation, so teaming together with managers to make sure that everything possible is being done to help each fish that is released survive is a natural partnership. FishSmart is not out to reinvent the wheel. We want to utilize the information that we have to improve the situation and learn more as we move forward."
Enhancing new product development through the FishSmart Tackle Program
During ICAST, ASA also launched a new category for FishSmart tackle in the New Product Showcase "Best of Show" competition. Exhibitors enter their most innovative tackle, apparel and accessories in the Showcase to vie for the top spot in 21 product categories. In this, its inaugural year, The SeaQuilizer, developed by the Florida-based company Finovation Inc. took the top spot in the FishSmart Tackle category. The SeaQuilizer is a noninvasive, pressure activated, fish recompression tool that is capable of releasing fish at targeted depths.
"The SeaQuilizer is just one example of the research and innovation that in taking place in the sportfishing industry to help both conserve our nation's fisheries, while at the same time providing anglers with products they can use to make that happen," noted Nussman.
The FishSmart approach consists of:
- Expanding our knowledge and understanding of released fish survival.
- Developing and employing new technologies and equipment where necessary to enhance released fish survival.
- Promoting the adoption of improved catch and release techniques to anglers.
- Developing innovative practices, equipment and management approaches to prevent the catch of unwanted fish.
The FishSmart Tackle component of this program will identify and recognize tackle and gear that help to promote the survival of fish that are released. By making anglers aware of these tools and promoting their proper use, anglers will be better prepared as front line conservations which will make a difference in fish survival. Over the next year, ASA will be formalizing the process to recognize work with partners to integrate that information into overall FishSmart messages.
"Will such a program work," queried Nussman. "We believe it will. In Australia, 3 out of 5 anglers surveyed recalled advertisements promoting 'fish friendly tackle,' with more than one third of these saying that it helped change their practices. An added benefit to retailers is that sales of some tackle and equipment designed to improve fish survival increased 20-50 percent.
Nussman also noted that "Beyond the economics, FishSmart is the right thing to do. Our sport is being held to higher standards and greater scrutiny in today's world and it is incumbent upon the industry to continue to be the leader in promoting responsible stewardship of fishery resources. Such efforts are beyond the scope of any single organization; it will require the efforts of all of us, working together, to make this happen."
FishSmart Tackle is the latest in a series of efforts being rolled out to achieve the mission of reducing mortality of released fish. In 2011 and 2012, NOAA Fisheries, in collaboration with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, provided support to FishSmart to host a series of national and regional workshops to assess the current state of knowledge on released fish survival.
"FishSmart is a great example of hands-on action by anglers for real conservation gains," said Russ Dunn, NOAA Fisheries' Recreational Fisheries national policy advisor. "It's about helping all of us fish smarter by developing practical real-world solutions to improve the survival of released fish. NOAA is proud to continue our long-standing relationship with the American Sportfishing Association by partnering with their FishSmart Tackle program."
Through these workshops, best release practices have been developed, information gaps identified and guidance to management agencies and organizations developed. Additionally, the FishSmart angler communications and education program, which is designed to supplement ongoing efforts by state and federal agencies, Sea Grant, and other non-governmental agencies, is under development through the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation.
"FishSmart fits nicely with the conservation component of our mission," said the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation's (RBFF) President and CEO Frank Peterson. "By incorporating FishSmart's messages in our communications vehicles we can inform and educate anglers about appropriate gear, best practices and techniques to use when releasing fish."
Peterson further said, "By doing this, RBFF will complement conservation outreach efforts already being conducted by state and federal agencies, SeaGrant and other organizations, helping to conserve our fisheries resources and enhance fishing opportunities for the future."
For more information, visit www.fishsmart.org.
—Source: American Sportfishing Association