Angling Pressure on fish populations

Authors: Mcphee, D.P  Leadbitter, D., Skilleter, G
Journal: Pacific Conservation Biology Vol 8: 40-51
Year: 2002
Where: (1) University of Queensland, Australia (2) Marine Stewardship Council, United Kingdom

This Australian study shows the anti-conservationist nature of angling in a number of ways:

  • death of threatened species
  • death of slow maturing and reproducing fish
  • adding to the overall decline in fish populations
  • bait harvesting
  • introduction of alien species
  • harm to sea birds
  • harm to marine animals
  • harm to reptiles
  • general pollution
Angling has a negative cumulative impact. However, anglers often deflect criticism elsewhere, such as on to commercial fishing.

Anglers are out of control. Their activity is largely unrestricted, and they are increasing in number. This is magnified by a greater deployment of technology such as:
  • echo sounders
  • GPS
  • chemically sharpened hooks
  • sharing of sites on the internet
  • off-road vehicles


"Balon (2000) contests that the idea that recreational fishers and their organizations are instrumental in the conservation of natural resources is largely an unfounded myth."


"The environmental impacts from recreational angling can be both ecologically significant and broad in scope and include: the removal of a considerable biomass of a wide variety of species; discarded by-catch; possible trophic cascades through the removal of higher order carnivores; impacts on habitat through bait harvesting; impacts of introduced and translocated species to support angling fisheries; direct impacts on sea-birds, marine mammals and reptiles; and angler generated pollution."

"Management, for several reasons, has largely ignored these environmental impacts from recreational fishing. Recreational fishing impacts are cumulative, whereas. there is a tendency for consideration of impacts in isolation. Recreational fishing lobbyists have generally been successful in focusing public and political attention on other impacts such as commercial fishing".


gaff fishing cruelty
"Recreational fishing as a rule is open access (i.e., there is no restriction on the number of anglers participating) and effort is generally considered to be increasing in most of these fisheries throughout the world. Growing pressure on fish stocks from recreational fishing strongly suggests that managing only the effects of commercial fishing may be insufficient to prevent fish stocks from being over-exploited."

"For instance, areas and species in Australia, South Africa and the United States have been or are in the process of being declared recreational only fisheries with no independent consideration of the ecological consequences."

"Recreational fishing is an activity that has, for the most part, escaped close scrutiny from the community and governments in relation to impacts on aquatic biodiversity."

"While there is comparatively less known about the recreational harvest than the commercial harvest, it is generally considered to be substantially large. Kearney (1995) provides a preliminary estimate of the annual recreational harvest in Australia of approximately 50 000 tonnes."


"Although not quantified, the efficiency of recreational anglers is also considered to be improving through the widespread use of technological improvements such as: high quality echo sounders; global positioning systems (GPS); new types of low diameter high strength fishing lines; and chemically sharpened fish hooks. Additionally, there is greater information available to anglers through the media and the internet regarding "hot spots", the right seasons and the most efficient techniques for particular species."

"The increased usage of off-road vehicles is also considered to have increased the spatial extent of recreational fishing."


"For several species recorded by Steffe et al. (1996), the recreational harvest in absolute terms was small (< 1 tonne per year), yet even these small levels of mortality from recreational fishing may be enough to cause population decline in some of the harvested species. For instance, the populations of the various shark species (eg, Draughtboard Shark and Rusty Catshark) recorded in recreational catches by Steffe et al. (1996) may be susceptible to low levels of fishing mortality because of their life history characteristics which include low fecundity, slow growth rate, and late maturation."

"Finfish species such as Bluefish Girella cyanea, which are believed to have small population sizes and restricted ranges, may also be significantly impacted by the low rates of recreational fishing mortality (Steffe et al. 1996)."

"There is ample evidence that recreational fisheries discard large numbers of fish, retain substantial numbers of juvenile fish, interact with rare and threatened species and impact on aquatic habitats."


"While often overlooked in the context of fisheries management, the harvest of invertebrates for bait constitutes an important component of angling’s ecological footprint."
Balon, E. K., 2000. Defending fishes against recreational fishing: an old problem to be solved in the new millenium. Environ. Bioi. Fish. 57: 1-8.
Kearney, R. E., 1995. Recreational fishing: what’s the catch? Pp. 10-23 in Recreational fishing: what’s the catch? Australian Society for Fish Biology Workshop Proceedings No 12. Australian Society for Fish Biology, Canberra.
Steffe, A. S., Murphy, J. J., Chapman, D. J., Tarlinton, B. E., Gordon, G. N. G. and Grinberg, A., 1996. An Assessment of the Impact of Offshore Recreational Fishing in New South Wales Waters on the Management of Commercial Fisheries. Final Report to The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. Project 94/053. 112 Pp.
Fish Pain