Shifts in the size and distribution of marine trophy fishing world records

James Boon*, Grace Vaudin, Hannah Millward-Hopkins, Bethan Christine O'Leary, Colin John McClean, Bryce Donald Stewart

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The extensive nature of recreational angling makes it difficult to explore trends in global catches. However, trophy fishing world records may provide an insight into recreational fishing pressure on the largest species and size classes. Trophy fishing is promoted and recorded by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), who manage an 80-year database on the largest individuals of a species caught – called all-tackle records (ATRs) – with information on the size and location of each record catch.

We analyse these data to explore temporal trends in the size of record-setting fishes, determine how past and present ATR catches are distributed globally, and examine trends in records for International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threatened species.

The number of ATRs, and the number of species awarded an ATR, have increased significantly over the past 80 years. New records are for increasingly smaller maximum-sized species of fish, with the average sized record shifting from 167.7 kg in the 1950s to 8.1 kg in the 2010s. ATRs for species listed as threatened (Vulnerable or higher) on the IUCN Red List have also declined by approximately 66% over the past two decades. Records were unevenly distributed around the world but have spread globally over time. Historically, ATRs were concentrated around the coastline of the USA but in recent decades more were reported in areas such as Japan and New Zealand.

These data either reflect a shift away from mainly targeting large taxa to targeting a wider variety of smaller species, or that there are now limited larger specimens and so fewer ATRs are being set. Additionally, the scarcity of new records for threatened species appears to support IUCN assessments of their poor stock status. The spread of ATRs suggests a growing pressure on the largest size classes in regions with previously little trophy fishing pressure. We encourage the greater use of catch-and-release initiatives and mandatory data collection for all near records to better quantify trophy fishing pressure and ensure sustainable practices.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Early online date27 Dec 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2023 The Authors.


  • Angling
  • Recreational fishing
  • Fisheries
  • Fisheries management
  • Conservation

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