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The idea is not that modern like people may to think. It likely originated in the 1800 and it was further developed in the 1900. Catch & Release is a conservation philosophy aiming to allow native fish to increase the spawn rate in a natural ecosystem. And I out the stress on the two keywords: native fish and natural ecosystem.
Catch and release has proven very valuable for natural fish population and there are plenty of serious studies that confirm it. The logic is pretty much straightforward, resources are not infinite and with the increasing number of anglers, rivers cannot cope with what the limits of its finite system are.