NOAA, Industry Working Together to Promote Smart Fishing

This summer NOAA Fisheries joined the sportfishing industry in Orlando, Florida, at the industry's largest trade show, to acknowledge FishSmart, a new NOAA-funded, angler-led program to improve the survival of angler-caught and released fish. Thanks to start-up funding from NOAA Fisheries, some of the brightest minds from industry, government, and academia are taking stock of the current state of scientific knowledge and developing practical solutions for anglers that produce real conservation gains.

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. The American Sportfishing Association (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 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. 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. For more information, visit www.fishsmart.org.