Action Plan for Fish Release Mortality Science

Action Plan Front Cover

NOAA Fisheries recently finalized the Action Plan for Fish Release Mortality Science. This plan identifies the best practices for estimating and reducing discard and release mortality for fish in commercial and recreational fisheries.

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 at the water's surface after release, can cause immediate death. Stress or injury during capture or handling can leave a fish unable to find or digest food effectively, resulting in death at a later time. 

The Action Plan is part of NOAA Fisheries’ proactive approach to addressing bycatch in U.S. fisheries. Bycatch occurs when fishing operations discard fish, cause unobserved mortality, or interact with living marine resources such as marine mammals, seabirds, corals, sponges, sea turtles, or protected fish. Although U.S. fisheries are among the world’s most sustainable, bycatch is a complex, global issue that threatens the sustainability and resiliency of our fishing communities, economies, and ocean ecosystems.  

The U.S. is a leader in responsibly managed fisheries. We are committed to minimizing bycatch in our fisheries to ensure that they remain sustainable. Forty years of management under the Magnuson-Steven Act (MSA) has been successful and has demonstrated that a dynamic, science-based management process is fundamental for maintaining sustainable fisheries. As part of our efforts to address bycatch, NOAA Fisheries and its partners created this Action Plan as well as a simple multi-attribute rating technique (SMART) tool. Together, the Action Plan and SMART tool: 

SMART tool

  • Help identify fish that would benefit most from improved mortality rate estimates.
  • Support the development of improved mortality rate estimates.
  • Encourage effective research that leads to reduced release mortality.
  • Help ensure that improved mortality rate estimates are helpful to managers.

To learn more, please see the Action Plan for Release Mortality Science, check out the SMART tool, or visit our website.