Fisheries Research, 186:688-692, Elsevier B.V., 2, 2017. Paper abstract bibtex
Recreational catch-and-release angling is an important tool for managing fish stocks. As recreational fishing is often a culturally or community-based activity, many anglers look to local grassroots and other non-government organizations (NGOs) as a source of information regarding their angling practices. For this study we examined the websites of recreational angling NGOs for mention of conservation and availability of best practice guidelines for catch-and-release fishing. Based on combinations of twelve search terms used on the Google search engine between October 2014 and March 2015, we reviewed 183 NGO websites and evaluated the language used in mission statements and website content for mention of conservation, catch-and-release, and any details related to the handling of caught fish. Any posted guidelines for catch-and-release were compared against scientifically evaluated best practices. During the time of our survey, results showed that <9% of recreational fishing NGOs mentioned catch-and-release anywhere within their websites and almost none provided complete, accurate best practice guidelines. For the small number of websites that did mention or promote guidelines for catch-and-release, there was no difference in the frequency of best practices listed among NGOs that focused on fly fishing, conventional gear fishing, or both. NGOs with a large membership shared more best practice guidelines for catch-and-release on their websites. Whether voluntary or mandatory through regulations, if catch-and-release is to be a valuable tool for conservation, our results suggest that there is a need for greater emphasis on encouraging best practices guidelines to be shared across a broad range of angling based NGOs. Knowledge sharing among angling based NGOs could be an effective way to promote best practices guidelines that ultimately help support the sustainability of recreational fisheries.