Exploitation of fishery resources has become a major conservation issue on a global scale. Commercial fisheries have been repeatedly blamed for the worldwide declines in fish populations. However, we contend that the recreational fishing sector also has the potential to negatively affect fish and fisheries. Here we present evidence to show that both recreational and commercial fishing sectors deserve consideration as contributors to the exploitation of fish in marine and inland waters. The lack of global monitoring and compiling of statistics on recreational fishing participation, harvest, and catch-and-release has retarded our ability to understand the magnitude of this fishing sector. Using data from Canada, we estimate that the potential contribution of recreational fish harvest around the world may represent approximately 12 percent of the global fish harvest. Failure to recognize the potential contribution of recreational fishing to fishery declines, environmental degradation, and ecosystem alterations places ecologically and economically important resources at risk. Elevating recreational fishing to a global conservation concern would facilitate the development of strategies to increase the sustainability of this activity.
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