Carleton University’s Steven Cooke has led a study on the impact of technology that is used by anglers and the recreational fishing industry. This technology has led to rapid and dramatic changes in how recreational anglers interact with fishery resources.

What was once practiced with bamboo rods and simple braided horsehair lines is now characterized by precision-made reels, ultra-sensitive graphite composite rods, almost invisible fishing line, underwater cameras, state-of-the-art echo sounders and fishing apps that allow anglers to quickly share their experiences and successes with others.

“From improvements in finding and catching fish, to emulating their natural prey and accessing previously inaccessible waters, to anglers sharing their exploits with others, technology is completely changing all aspects of recreational fishing,“ said Cooke, professor of Fish Ecology in Carleton‘s Department of Biology. “These innovations may seem positive, though costly, from the perspective of anglers but for fisheries managers and policy makers, it creates challenges as they attempt to keep up with change.“

The goal of the paper, Technological innovations in the recreational fishing sector: implications for fisheries management, is to investigate how innovations in recreational fishing are changing the way that anglers interact with fish, and how recreational fishery management is adjusting—from changes in fish capture, to fish handling, to how anglers share information with each other and with managers. Given that technology is continually evolving, the authors hope that this research leads to increased and better monitoring of technological innovations and engagement by those managing the recreational fishing sector. Doing so will ensure that management actions related to emerging and evolving recreational fishing technology are more proactive than reactive.

Innovations in fishing technology can benefit anglers, but also fish. Some of the technology helps reduce injuries, stress and mortality of released fish and ensures that only certain species or sizes end up on the hook. However, technical innovations can also change the whole way angling works, fuel conflicts, increase inequality in anglers’ catches and violate established ethical principles.

There is often a lack of data that can be used to objectively deduce how new methods work. Studies are still needed to verify whether gear innovations put fish stocks at risk to be overfished. The researchers suggest systematically investigating the effects of modern technologies. This is the only way that resource managers can adequately evaluate technological innovations and implement them in new regulations that are sustainable.

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Steven Reid
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Carleton University

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Monday, April 19, 2021 in
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