I only wish fishery agencies had something resembling the logic you mention.
Not that I'd agree with it, but at least it'd be something to respond to.
I'm not sure where you heard about not being able to remove a fish unless
it's dead. I recall reading something about this in the California
regulations, and I think it's the law here in Washington for salmonids, but
I think it's more of a catch regulation deal. There are a lot of
regulations on where, when and what you can catch. The state wants to be
able to associate the actual fish caught with gear type, time of catch, and
catch location. Maybe they don't want people fishing in restricted waters
and moving the live fish to legal waters to mislead field agents.
And these are game fish. We're not even allowed to collect nongame fish,
dead or alive, without a scientific collecting permit. In some California
lakes where bait fishing is legal, you can't bring bait fish in with you,
you can't take any live bait fish from that lake after you're done fishing.
But I don't think this has anything to do with removing impacts on gamefish
in other lakes where the baitfish might be released. I think Calif is
dealing with the whole issue of impacts of exotics and transfers between
watersheds. I'm not defending California or its track record of fishery
management. This is a state that continues to tout its largemough bass
(exotic!) fishery and use Gambusia (exotic!) for mosquito control.
In states like Arizona with many endangered endemic species, I understand
their restrictions. They're protecting their fish from collector-aquarists
who would collect them to extinction. That has already happened, and
aquarium releases and introduced exotics have also caused the disappearance
of rare fish through hybridization. In states like this, responsible
aquarist-collectors or naturalist-collectors have many hurdles to overcome.
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