NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.

According to NMFS, discard and release mortality occurs when fish or other animals are caught alive and then die after release. Severe injury or predation, such as being eaten by another animal at the water's surface after release, can cause immediate death. Stress or injury during capture or handling can leave a fish unable to effectively find or digest food, resulting in death at a later time.

Better informed mortality estimates can lead to better stock assessments and management actions.

The Action Plan includes a “simple multi-attribute rating technique” tool that can help identify high priority stocks for discard and release mortality research. Fishermen and managers have developed and promoted practices designed to reduce mortality.

The full report is available online and NMFS is seeking comments on the report up until Dec. 18.

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Samuel Hill is the former associate editor for National Fisherman. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine where he got his start in journalism at the campus’ newspaper, the Free Press. He has also written for the Bangor Daily News, the Outline, Motherboard and other publications about technology and culture.

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