Fishing tourists release small cod
A new study concludes that marine fishing tourists release or throw out as much as 60 % of the coastal cod caught in Northern Norway. This is attracting attention from Norwegian fishery management authorities. Not least, there is a need for new regulations and handling guidelines so the fish may be released in a way that it survives, says Scientist Trude Borch at Nofima.
In a newly published article in Fisheries Management and Ecology Borch and co-authors Keno Ferter and Jeppe Kolding from the University of Bergen and Jon Helge Vølstad from the Institute of Marine Research discuss how marine fishing tourism should be regulated within the scopes of sustainable management of marine fishing resources.
The base data for the analysis are from a Master’s thesis by Keno Ferter’s at the University of Bergen. An important point in this context is that marine angling tourists to a large extent have been targeting the coastal cod stocks in the north.
In contrast to the healthy stock of North-East Arctic cod, the Norwegian coastal cod has for several years been on and off the Norwegian “Red List” for threatened species.
The cod was either too small or too big
“Marine fishing tourism is a growing industry in Norway. In order to secure continued sustainable growth in this sector of the Norwegian tourism industry, it is important to introduce follow-up measures from both fishery management and the tourism industry. The industry’s part of this must be to convey knowledge about the regulations and provide advice to the tourists about how to handle the fish to increase the survival rate of released fish,” says Borch.
Is it the international trend of catch-and-release or is it the Norwegian regulations that contribute to marine fishing tourists throwing back over half the catch of cod in Northern Norway?
“The the survey data shows that regulations aimed at protecting the smallest cod is a partial reason for releasing fish.
A total of 10 % of the tourists that were interviewed stated that they released the cod because it was under the minimum size (regulatory catch-and-release), while 60 % of the tourists responded that they released the fish because they regarded it as “too small” (i.e. voluntary catch-and-release). A further 9 % responded that they released the cod because they already had “too many fish”.
Somewhat surprisingly, 1 % responded that they released the cod because it was “too big”, either too big to use as bait or too big to be suitable as food.”
Want to increase the survival rate
The release of cod in marine angling tourism can in part be traced back to the Norwegian regulations introduced as a result of pressure from the commercial fishermen’s special interest organisations. In 2006 Norwegian fisheries authorities introduced an export quota of 15 kg of fish fillets per person. In 2010 a minimum landing size regulation was introduced for recreational and tourist fishing. Both these regulations were introduced as part of a new management regime for Norwegian coastal cod, says Borch.
Given the lack of knowledge about the survival rate of released coastal cod, the authors of the article claim that a 60 % release rate can be a worrying trend. The article concludes that providing the marine fishing tourists with handling guidelines in order to increase the rate of survival may be one of several solutions to this problem.
There may be lessons to learn from the work scientists at Nofima and the Institute of Marine Research have provided in research on capture-based aquaculture of cod caught by hook. A new handbook is now available on this theme.
Keno Ferter is also working on increasing our knowledge about the survival rate of cod in an ongoing PhD project at the University of Bergen.