Releasing fish after capture in recreational fisheries is a valuable conservation tool that can help preserve fish populations, but fish do not always survive after they are thrown back. This is known as discard mortality.
The problem is that we generally don’t know what percentage of fish die after release, which can complicate population assessments and effective management.
For the past several years, researchers at the New England Aquarium’s Anderson Cabot Center have been addressing this question by estimating discard mortality rates for important species in the Gulf of Maine recreational groundfish fishery, such as Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua). The team has not only been investigating how many fish die after release, but also what kinds of fishing tackle and best capture and handling practices should be recommended to give fish the best chance of survival.
The Anderson Cabot Center is now expanding this work to a new region, a new fishery, and a new season. Using what they learned from their work on Atlantic cod in the Gulf of Maine, the team is conducting a study to estimate the discard mortality for Atlantic cod released off southern New England in the winter recreational fishery. To do this successfully, we are asking for your help! If you fish for cod on Coxes Ledge or off the coast of southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island this winter, we invite you to contribute to this important research by providing photo data on the cod that you catch. Find and join our project online at Anecdata.org to create a free account and begin uploading photos (https://www.anecdata.org/projects/view/625).