Study Claims Keeping Weight Records Threatens Fish Species, IGFA Responds

Last week, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) responded to a recently published study that called on the agency to cease record-keeping efforts for at-risk species, Science magazine's news site reports.

The study, published in the December 2014 issue of Marine Policy, claims that the IGFA is jeopardizing threatened fish populations by encouraging people to kill the largest, most fertile fish, including those rated as either vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It recommends abandoning the use of weight-based records and shifting toward records based on length.

IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser responded in an open letter saying the study's authors based their research on incorrect assumptions. "Their conclusion that a cessation of IGFA All-Tackle records for IUCN threatened species would 'result in an instantaneous reduction of fishing pressure on the most fecund members of these at-risk species, and would promote the recovery of their populations,' lacks biological credibility, when 1) IGFA All-Tackle record submissions for these species are rare events, and 2) commercial landings for many of these species are orders of magnitude higher than trophy fishing efforts," Schratwieser wrote.

Of the 1,222 all-tackle records maintained by the agency, Schratwieser said less than 7 percent (85 categories) relate to species the IUCN considers threatened, and the study failed to note that only 15 all-tackle record applications have been received for those fish in the last 20 years. “My feeling is that policy should be predicated on science and sound data,” Schratwieser says. “If there were data that indicated we were a significant problem or contributing factor in the decline of these species, I can guarantee you that we would make immediate adjustments.”