Many scientists, conservationists and fishermen support our trophy fishing paper recommendations

Last month, a team of marine scientists (which included Andrew and I) published a paper pointing out that intentionally killing the largest and most fecund members of IUCN Red List Threatened species is not a good thing and could be easily stopped (by stopping record awards entirely for these species or moving to a catch and release model)

Our recommendations were not universally supported by scientists, and we received criticism from respected colleagues largely in the form of “this isn’t a particularly big problem, no serious people care about it.” There was also an official response from the IGFA to this effect, which we issued an official response to. Sure. It isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but it is a problem. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a conservation problem that’s easier to solve.

A petition created by the Blue Planet Society based on our recommendations has, as of this writing, surpassed 6,000 signatures from all over the world, including many from scientists, fisherman and professional conservation activists. The paper has also been widely discussed on social media

Presented here are some quotes from scientists, fishermen and conservationists supporting our recommendations. While this support does not inherently mean that the issues we raise are important, it certainly shows that lots of serious people care about it.

Scientist public statements

Dr. Luiz Rocha, Curator of Fishes for the California Academy of Sciences tweeted “Incredible that the IGFA awards world records for killing Threatened fish. Time to change.”

Dr. Carl Safina, award-winning author, MacArthur genius grant recipient, and Indianapolis Prize for conservation recipient, tweeted “Should recreational anglers get “world records” for catching threatened species? Um, no.” His organization’s account used the “throwback Thursday” meme to suggest that anglers should “throw back red-listed fish”

“I support this recommendation. Protecting aquatic communities benefits the ecosystems and the natural resources we, as humans need also. Ensuring these species and communities survive for future generations is important to me.” Dr. Danielle N. Lee, Postdoc, Cornell University

Dr. Edward Hind, an expert on how fisher’s knowledge should govern fisheries management, said “his research, when read in detail, clearly gives fair consideration to the popular pastime of recreational angling. It is certainly not a piece of research designed to stop people taking pleasure in angling. If anything, it is a piece of research which ensures anglers, their children, and their grandchildren will still be able to angle to their heart’s desire.”

A team of marine biologists made a similar argument (the importance of protecting the largest individuals in a fish population) in a press release for a separate but related paper:

Lead author Dr. Mark Hixon of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa says”The loss of big fish decreases the productivity and stability of fishery stocks….Increasingly, fisheries managers are realizing that saving some big old fish is essential to ensure that fished populations are stable and sustainable.”

Co-author Dr. Susan Sogard of the National Marine Fisheries Service reports that “larger fish can produce better quality eggs that hatch into young that grow and survive better than young from smaller females.”

Dr. Hixon also told me that “It’s reassuring to see that more and more papers are coming-out on this important issue since Steve Berkeley’s seminal research over a decade ago. My hope is that meaningful change will come to fisheries management before more stocks are fully degraded.”

My Uncle Steven, an avid angler, weighed in via e-mail, saying “I always practice catch and release except for those few being kept to eat or are too damaged to let go.I’m one of the few that favor releasing large halibut > 100 pounds. They’re not good to eat, they must have good genes to get that old and that big and they’re the breeders. Naturally, as a sports fisherman, I firmly believe the biggest threats are the commercial fisherman. Nonetheless recreational fisherman should be cognizant of ‘ethical ‘ fishing, respecting the fish and treat all like they were endangered. Catch and release is the only way to go.”

Selected BPS petition signatures:

John West: “As someone who has fished for pleasure and done time on a trawler there are some fish which are truly awesome and should be preserve. They are big and as top predators rare. The big ones that gain records are old quite possibly older than the man who caught them. They are needed to keep the species going for future generations of fishermen. Please only awards records for catch and release, praise those who add to our knowledge of these great beasts and shame those who destroy something that once it is impossible to replace.”

Oz Osborne: “I enjoy fishing but you don’t have to kill to prove how big it was or is to prove how big a man you are. We need to preserve what little is left in our oceans . Lets put a stop to this now”

Elliott O’Sullivan: “As a marine biologist and keen fisherman I believe responsible stewardship of the oceans should be absolutely the top priority.”

Wibke Janson: ” I am a marine biologist and as such I am aware of the difficulties the ocean faces on a daily bases. It is important to protect endagered species. Many of the predator species that are caught in these tournaments are responsible for a balanced and healthy ecosystem.”

Christopher Permezel signed “As a mad keen recreational fisherman seeing breeding specimens slaughtered for some false glory of a world record…”

Joseph Ruf: “I’m a recreational fisherman and have seen all our fisheries depleted. My grandfather caught fish 40 years ago in numbers we’ll never see again. I’d like my children to enjoy the same sport I’ve grown up on.”

Daniel Stevens: “I am a spear fisherman , a diver and a line fisherman. We don’t take full size, sharks, or any other endangered or rare species”

George Constantino: “I love deep sea fishing but this senseless, killing and waste of the best of the best and next of the best game fish has to stop!”

Samantha Weber: “I am a conservation biologist, sharks are incredibly important to maintaining healthy ocean systems, including healthy fish populations (which would benefit basically everyone), and threatening that for attention and “sport” for a very few people is not a fair exchange.”

Graham Chivers: “I release all large fish I catch, any species. In sports, both teams get to go home alive. Catch and release should be the new standard & previous world records archived.”

Marine biologist Sharon Homer-Drumond “Weight-based records only encourage taking of needed older population members, which are most successful at replenishing threatened populations.”

Tom Cameron: “As a recreational fisherman, and a fisheries biologist, and someone who understand the roles of top predators, I can see no net positive benefit of retaining the ban on records for released fish. We have enough data now to stop all records for certain species based on dead specimens, and switch the incentive to catch and release. If its possible with salmon and wild bass species, then it is possible with larger predators. Get with the program and modernise our sport!!!”

Leon Green: “As a marine fisheries scientist, I’m well aware of the issues of aiming for the largest fish. Those are usually also the most reproductive and thus more valuable for the stocks. Be smart about it, don’t let your own hobby ambition ruin the situation for endangered species.”

(Some of the statements made by signers of the BPS petition contain incorrect information about the IGFA, as well as violent threats towards trophy fishermen, that we do not endorse.)