Collateral damage. For those of us who are saltwater-angling enthusiasts, that's what we've become. It's unfair and counterproductive, but there it is.
Among recreational anglers, the greatest travesty in fisheries management occurs when laws that restrict fishing effort are issued with a blanket approach. Thus, in a one-size-fits-all model, fishery managers announce that all fisheries for a given species or in a given area will face the same restrictions or closures.
With no attempt to distinguish among user groups, this methodology suggests that weekend anglers — who, statistically speaking, release more than half of what they catch and are relatively inefficient as far as what they do catch — are in the same league as factory trawlers and longliners, harvesting tons of targeted fish and, often, tons of bycatch as well.
It's a global problem that should concern anglers everywhere. For instance, a recent proposal by the European Commission imposes this year a six-month moratorium on commercial fishing for European sea bass (similar to our striped bass) and on all sport retention, and for the subsequent six months allow the commercial fleet a ton of bass per boat each month, and anglers one fish per day.
Ironically, this crisis-management approach to devastated bass stocks came about after years of overfishing, as fishery managers and politicians failed to heed warnings of an imminent population collapse. That should sound all too familiar to anyone familiar with the management of cod in the U.S. Northeast.