The design and analysis of field studies to estimate catch-and-release mortality

The practice of catch and release (CR) as a fisheries management tool to reduce fishing mortality is widely applied in both freshwater and marine fisheries, whether from shifts in angler attitudes related to harvest or from the increasing use of harvest restrictions such as closed seasons or length limits. This approach assumes that for CR fishing policies to benefit the stock, CR will result in much lower mortality than would otherwise occur. There are many challenges in the design of CR studies to assess mortality, and in many practical settings it is difficult to obtain accurate and precise estimates. The focus of this article is on the design and quantitative aspects of estimating CR mortality, the need for a comprehensive approach that explicitly states all components of CR mortality, and the assumptions behind these methods. A general conceptual model for CR mortality that is applicable to containment and tagging‐based studies with a slight modification is presented. This article reviews the design and analysis of containment and tagging studies to estimate CR mortality over both the short and long term and then compares these two approaches. Additionally, the potential population‐level impacts of CR mortality are discussed. A recurring theme is the difficulty of designing studies to estimate CR mortality comprehensively and the need for additional research into both statistical model development and field study design.