Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fishing by the Rules: Sport Fishermen Embrace Sustainable Techniques

/PRNewswire/ -- Unlike commercial fishing, the major player in depleted fish populations, sport fishing makes up less than 12 percent of the global harvest. And though they are equipped with the latest tools and technology to increase their haul, today's sport fisherman embodies a surprising combination of conservation and conquest.

With one eye on environmental responsibility and the other on sportsmanship, most sport fishers have adopted a plethora of sustainable fishing techniques. From reduced-impact gear like lead-free lures to biodegradable bait and hooks, recreational fishermen now have ample opportunities to land their next big catch while preserving big game fish populations for future anglers.

An ardent proponent of aquatic habitat conservation, the International Game Fish Association supports fishermen with guidelines that promote ethical sport fishing practices, including instructions for the best catch-and-release tactics.

"Releasing fish is important, but more important is the way fish are caught and released. Using circle hooks with bait and fish-friendly handling practices that minimize slime loss and damage to the fish help ensure that released fish have the chance to reproduce, and perhaps be caught again," says Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director for IFGA.

"In my experience, 90 percent of sport fishermen follow the rules," says Captain Lee A. Campbell of the Panama Big Game Fishing Club in Boca Chica, Panama, where sport fishing is a huge draw for serious marine fishermen. In order for the region to maintain its status as a sport fishing hotspot, Panama players like Campbell stress the importance of sustainability.

"Panama is lucky to have a great population of fish, and we want it to stay that way," says Campbell. "If sustainable practices are followed and commercial fishing is banned, Panama could remain one of the best sport fishing destinations in the world. It's too late for many fishing destinations which have already depleted their fish, but for Panama there's still time."

Amble Resorts, an environmentally responsible real estate development company, supports sustainable sport fishing for their new Panama eco resort, The Resort at Isla Palenque. Amble President Ben Loomis notes, "Done correctly, sport fishing is very sustainable. Certainly catch-and-release fishing has a limited impact. But even if we're catching several tuna or Wahoo and taking them back home to share, our impact is nothing compared to commercial fishermen."

Loomis concludes, "Isla Palenque is a great jumping-off point for sport fishing throughout Panama's Gulf of Chiriqui, and we want to protect that. We're less than two hours from famous sites like Hannibal Bank, and we've got a number of other great locations within 45 minutes, like Ladrones or Islas Secas. With sustainable practices, this will remain a fishing paradise for a long time."

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