RE:Addressing Hook Mortality IS Important
First, I agree that it is important to know the source of cited data. However, in a topic as broad as post-release mortality the available data are overwhelming in amount (although representing a wide variety of findings). Just as a 'for example' - there have been two mulitiple-day, national conferences on recreational catch and release mortality of marine fishes (both sponsored by Virginia Institute of Marine Science). The amount of information available at those conferences was amazing, not to mention all of the published literature.
Second, some of the findings of the MassFisheries study (e.g., type and placement of hook) only added to data already available for so many other species.
Third, as is so often the case in CandR studies, the MassFisheries study was conducted in an impoundment, so mortality most likely resulted from only physiological or direct physical causes. This is not a knock on the MassFisheries study -- it is almost impossible to conduct a study that accounts for natural predation. However, this is just another reason for using caution in selecting a CandR mortality rate for use in fisheries models.
Fourth, although it is a commonly used predictive method, one must be very careful in applying the results of any regression outside the exact conditions for which it was used. I think this is especially prudent when it comes to situations such as this.
Fifth, realize that, regardless of type of gear, there are millions(!) of recreational anglers along the east coast, so although an individual's impact might be 'low' the impact must be considered on the whole of the fishery.
Finally, the status quo is that the burden of proof falls on the biologist to prove that an activity has an impact, and then from his/her data recommend action. I think given the results under the status quo, it is now prudent to shift the burden of proof to the user-groups to prove there is no impact. It is easy to argue with the devil when it is the devil that has to design and conduct the studies, provide the data, conduct the appropriate statistical tests, and make recommendations. One side is always on the defensive, the other has the constant advantage of critic. My guess is that if places were switched the tone of the argument would change considerably.