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Why catch and release is tough on fish | MNN

There is a long-standing debate about whether or not catch and release is human. Anglers say it's a harmless way to enjoy the sport while still conserving at-risk species. Animal rights activists counter that it's cruel.

A hook pierces a fish's mouth when it goes in and out as it's taken back out. Yes, the fish is released, but is it a cost to its health?

New research says yes.

Mouth damage caused by the hook can be properly absorbed, according to a study published by an international team of scientists in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

When a hook is taken from a fish's mouth, it leaves at extra hole.

"The suction feeding system is somewhat similar to how we drink through a straw," study co-authored Tim Higham of The University of California Riverside said in a statement. "If you poke a hole in the side of your straw, it's not going to work properly."

Hungry while healing

 Trout with mouth open
close up. (Photo: Dan Bagur / Shutterstock)

20 shiner perch – 10 caught by hook and 10 caught by net. The fish were transported to a lab where they were monitored and photographed while they were fed. They were all eager to eat.

"As we predicted, the fish with the mouth injuries exhibited a reduction in the speed at which they were able to draw prey into their mouths," Higham said. "This was the case even though we used barbless hooks, which are less damaging than barbed hooks."

The fish were safely released after the experiment.

The researchers said they would not know how to handle this issue. However, they believe the injury caused by the hook would affect the fish's ability to feed while the mouth is healing.

Said Higham, "This study emphasizes that catch-and-release is not as simple as removing the hook and all of it, but rather a complex process that should be studied in more detail."

Mary Jo DiLonardo writes about everything from health to parenting.

Researchers look at how catch and release impacts

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