Despite a long-held belief that recreational fishing does not have a serious impact on fish stocks, a paper published this week in Science suggests otherwise. The study found that in 2002, recreational landings for the most relevant overfished populations, including red snapper, black sea bass, and lingcod, accounted for nearly a quarter of the total catch in the United States.

Felicia Coleman, of Florida State University, and her colleagues analyzed the recreational and commercial fishery landings over the past 22 years, both at the national and at the regional levels. In the Gulf of Mexico, recreational landings accounted for 64% of the total catch; along the US Pacific coast, the figures reached 59%; in the south Atlantic region 38%, and in the northeast United States 12%.

"Policies to protect fisheries have ignored recreational fishing, concentrating only on the impact of commercial fishing. Here, we demonstrate that the recreational component...

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