Fishing for effective conservation: context and biotic variation are keys to understanding the survival of Pacific salmon after catch-and-release
Raby, GD and Donaldson, MR and Hinch, SG and Clark, TD and Eliason, EJ and Jeffries, KM and Cook, KV and Teffer, A and Bass, AL and Miller, KM and Patterson, DA and Farrell, AP and Cooke, SJ, Fishing for effective conservation: context and biotic variation are keys to understanding the survival of Pacific salmon after catch-and-release, Integrative and Comparative Biology, 55, (4) pp. 554-576. ISSN 1540-7063 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2015 The Authors. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.
Acute stressors are commonly experienced by wild animals but their effects on fitness rarely are studied in the natural environment. Billions of fish are captured and released annually around the globe across all fishing sectors (e.g., recreational, commercial, subsistence). Whatever the motivation, release often occurs under the assumption of post-release survival. Yet, capture by fisheries (hereafter "fisheries-capture") is likely the most severe acute stressor experienced in the animalís lifetime, which makes the problem of physiological recovery and survival of relevance to biology and conservation. Indeed, fisheries managers require accurate estimates of mortality to better account for total mortality from fishing, while fishers desire guidance on strategies for reducing mortality and maintaining the welfare of released fish, to maximize current and future opportunities for fishing. In partnership with stakeholders, our team has extensively studied the effects of catch-and-release on Pacific salmon in both marine and freshwater environments, using biotelemetry and physiological assessments in a combined laboratory-based and field-based approach. The emergent theme is that post-release rates of mortality are consistently context-specific and can be affected by a suite of interacting biotic and abiotic factors. The fishing gear used, location of a fishery, water temperature, and handling techniques employed by fishers each can dramatically affect survival of the salmon they release. Variation among individuals, co-migrating populations, and between sexes all seem to play a role in the response of fish to capture and in their subsequent survival, potentially driven by pre-capture pathogen-load, maturation states, and inter-individual variation in responsiveness to stress. Although some of these findings are fascinating from a biological perspective, they all create unresolved challenges for managers. We summarize our findings by highlighting the patterns that have emerged most consistently, and point to areas of uncertainty that require further research.