Coral Reefs

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 85–95 | Cite as

A quantitative comparison of recreational spearfishing and linefishing on the Great Barrier Reef: implications for management of multi-sector coral reef fisheries

  • A. J. Frisch
  • R. Baker
  • J-P. A. Hobbs
  • L. Nankervis


This study compared the catch composition, catch per unit effort, and incidental impacts of spearfishers and linefishers engaged in a structured fishing program whereby fishing effort was standardized across time, space and skill level. It was found that (1) the catch composition of both groups of fishers overlapped considerably, (2) the numbers of target fish caught by spearfishers (156) and linefishers (168) were not significantly different, (3) the mean size of target fish caught by spearfishers (1.95 ± 0.1 kg, ±SE) was significantly larger than the mean size of target fish caught by linefishers (1.27 ± 0.06 kg), and (4) spearfishers retained 43% more biomass of target species than did linefishers (304 versus 213 kg, respectively). However, linefishers used ∼1 kg of bait for every 3 kg of target fish that were captured. Linefishers also caught far more undersized, undesirable, or protected fishes (i.e., bycatch) and caused far more pollution (i.e., lost gear) than did spearfishers. It is concluded that the overall impacts of recreational spearfishing and linefishing on fishery resources of the Great Barrier Reef are broadly equivalent (per unit of fishing effort), and that management regulations should be applied equitably across both fishing sectors. A management strategy of this type will simplify enforcement of fisheries regulations and avoid discrimination of particular fishers in local communities where both fishing methods are socially or culturally important.


Spearfishing Linefishing Catch per unit effort Selectivity Coral trout Bycatch 



The authors are grateful for the numerous fishers who participated in this study. Thanks are also due to the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries for providing financial support. James Cook University provided logistical assistance and John Frisch, Adam Smith and David Welch provided valuable comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. Katherine Munkres assisted with preparation of the figures and Mark McCormick provided statistical advice. This research was conducted with permission from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Permit no. G05/15590.1).


  1. Anon Fisheries regulation (1995) Queensland Government, Brisbane, Australia (
  2. Anon Fisheries management plan (2003) Queensland Government, Brisbane, Australia (
  3. Bellwood DR, Hughes TP, Folke C, Nystrom M (2004) Confronting the coral reef crisis. Nature 249:827–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Birkeland A, Dayton PK (2005) The importance in fishery management of leaving the big ones. Trends Ecol Evol 20:356–358PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Breiman L, Friedman JH, Olshen RA, Stone CG (1984) Classification and regression trees. Wadsworth International Group, BelmontGoogle Scholar
  6. Cinner JE, McClanahan TR (2006) Socioeconomic factors that lead to overfishing in small-scale coral reef fisheries of Papua New Guinea. Environ Conserv 33:73–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Connell SD, Kingsford MJ (1998) Spatial, temporal and habitat related variation in the abundance of large predatory fish at One Tree Reef, Australia. Coral Reefs 17:49–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connolly NA, Brown TL (1995) Use of angler diaries to examine biases associated with 12-months recall on mail questionnaires. Trans Am Fish Soc 124:413–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cooke SJ, Schramm HL (2007) Catch-and-release science and its application to conservation and management of recreational fisheries. Fish Manag Ecol 14:73–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dalzell P (1996) Catch rates, selectivity, and yields of reef fishing. In: Polunin NVC, Roberts C (eds) Reef fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 161–192Google Scholar
  11. Dalzell P, Adams TJH, Polunin NVC (1996) Coastal fisheries in the Pacific Islands. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev 34:395–531Google Scholar
  12. Davis GE (1977) Anchor damage to a coral reef on the coast of Florida. Biol Conserv 11:29–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. De’ath G, Fabricius KE (2000) Classification and regression trees: a powerful yet simple technique for ecological analysis. Ecology 81:3178–3192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dinsdale EA, Harriott VJ (2004) Assessing anchor damage on coral reefs: a case study in selection of environmental indicators. Environ Manage 33:126–139PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Done TJ (1982) Patterns in the distribution of coral communities across the central Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 1:95–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eckersley Y (1997) War beneath the waves: spearfishing debate surfaces. Geo Australasia 19:18–26Google Scholar
  17. Ferreira BP (1995) Reproduction of the common coral trout Plectropomus leopardus (Serranidae: Epinephelinae) from the central and northern Great Barrier Reef. Bull Mar Sci 56:653–669Google Scholar
  18. Frisch AJ (2007) Growth and reproduction of the painted spiny lobster (Panulirus versicolor) on the Great Barrier Reef (Australia). Fish Res 85:61–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frisch AJ, van Herwerden L (2006) Field and experimental studies of hybridization between coral trouts, Plectropomus leopardus and Plectropomus maculatus (Serranidae), on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. J Fish Biol 68:1013–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Froese R, Pauly D (2007) FishBase. International centre for living aquatic resource management, Manila (
  21. Gillett R, Moy W (2006) Spearfishing in the Pacific islands: current status and management issues. Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  22. Graham NAJ, Evans RD, Russ GR (2003) The effects of marine reserve protection on the trophic relationships of reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. Environ Conserv 30:200–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Grant E (1997) Guide to fishes. E.M. Grant Publishers, ScarboroughGoogle Scholar
  24. Harper DE, Bohnsack JK, Lockwood BR (2000) Recreational fisheries in Biscayne National Park, Florida, 1976–1991. Mar Fish Rev 62:8–26Google Scholar
  25. Heemstra PC, Randall JE (1993) Groupers of the world. FAO Species Catalogue 16. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, RomeGoogle Scholar
  26. Hobson ES (1991) Trophic relationships of fishes specialized to feed on zooplankters above coral reefs. In: Sale PF (ed) The ecology of fishes on coral reefs. Academic Press, San Diego, pp 69–95Google Scholar
  27. Hundloe T (1985) Fisheries of the Great Barrier Reef. Prestige Litho Printing, BrisbaneGoogle Scholar
  28. Jackson JBC, Kirby MX, Berger WH, Bjorndal KA, Botsford LW, Bourque BJ, Bradbury RH, Cooke R, Erlandson J, Estes JA, Hughes TP, Kidwell S, Lange CB, Lenihan HS, Pandolfi JM, Peterson CH, Steneck RS, Tegner MJ, Warner RR (2001) Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems. Science 293:629–637PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jennings S, Lock J (1996) Population and ecosystem effects of fishing. In: Polunin NVC, Roberts C (eds) Reef fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 193–218Google Scholar
  30. Jones DS, Morgan GJ (1994) A field guide to crustaceans of Australian waters. Reed, ChatswoodGoogle Scholar
  31. King M (1995) Fisheries biology, assessment and management. Blackwell Science, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  32. Kulbicki M, Guillemot N, Amand M (2005) A general approach to length–weight relationships for New Caledonian lagoon fishes. Cybium 29:235–252Google Scholar
  33. Lincoln-Smith MP, Bell JD, Pollard DA, Russell BC (1989) Catch and effort of competition spearfishermen in southeastern Australia. Fish Res 8:45–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Long EJ (1957) Anglers versus spearmen. Sea Front 3:130–141Google Scholar
  35. Mann BQ, Scott GM, Mann-Lang JB, Brouwer SL, Lamberth SJ, Sauer WHH, Erasmus C (1997) An evaluation of participation in and management of the South African spearfishery. S Afr J Mar Sci 18:179–193Google Scholar
  36. Matsuoka T, Nakashima T, Nagasawa N (2005) A review of ghost fishing: scientific approaches to evaluation and solutions. Fish Sci 71:691–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McClanahan TR, Mangi SC (2004) Gear-based management of a tropical artisanal fishery based on species selectivity and capture. Fish Manag Ecol 11:51–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Myers RF (1993) Guam’s small-boat-based fisheries. Mar Fish Rev 55:117–128Google Scholar
  39. Newman SJ, Williams AM, Russ GR (1997) Patterns of zonation of assemblages of the Lutjanidae, Lethrinidae and Serranidae (Epinephelinae) within and among mid-shelf and outer-shelf reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef. Mar Freshw Res 48:119–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Newton K, Cote IM, Pilling GM, Jennings S, Dulvy NK (2007) Current and future sustainability of island coral reef fisheries. Curr Biol 17:655–658PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pandolfi JM, Bradbury RH, Sala E, Hughes TP, Bjorndal KA, Cooke RG, McArdle D, McClenachan L, Newman MJH, Peredes G, Warner RR, Jackson JBC (2003) Global trajectories of the long-term decline of coral reef ecosystems. Science 301:955–958PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pauly D, Christensen V, Guenette S, Pitcher TJ, Sumaila UR, Walters CJ, Watson R, Zeller D (2002) Towards sustainability in world fisheries. Nature 418:689–695PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pet-Soede C, van Densen WLT, Pet JS, Machiels MAM (2001) Impact of Indonesian coral reef fisheries on fish community structure and the resultant catch composition. Fish Res 51:35–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Randall JE, Allen GR, Steene RC (1990) Fishes of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Crawford House Press, BathurstGoogle Scholar
  45. Roberts CM (1995) Effects of fishing on the ecosystem structure of coral reefs. Conserv Biol 9:988–995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ruddle K (1996) Geography and human ecology of reef fisheries. In: Polunin NVC, Roberts C (eds) Reef fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 137–160Google Scholar
  47. Rudershausen PJ, Buckel JA, Williams EH (2007) Discard composition and release fate in the snapper and grouper commercial hook-and-line fishery in North Carolina, USA. Fish Manag Ecol 14:103–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sadovy YJ (1996) Reproduction of reef fishery species. In: Polunin NVC, Roberts C (eds) Reef fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 15–59Google Scholar
  49. Sadovy Y, Donaldson TJ, Graham TR, McGilvray F, Muldoon GJ, Phillips MJ, Rimmer MA, Smith A, Yeeting B (2003) While stocks last: the live reef food fish trade. Asian Development Bank, ManilaGoogle Scholar
  50. Tarrant MA, Manfredo MJ (1993) Digit preference, recall bias, and non-response bias in self reports of angling participation. Leisure Sci 15:231–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Walters CJ, Martell SJD (2004) Fisheries ecology and management. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  52. Wilkinson C (2004) Status of coral reefs of the world. Australian Institute of Marine Science, TownsvilleGoogle Scholar
  53. Williams LE (2002) Queensland’s fisheries resources: current condition and recent trends 1988–2000. Department of Primary Industries, BrisbaneGoogle Scholar
  54. Wright A, Richards AH (1985) A multi-species fishery associated with coral reefs in the Tigak Islands, Papua New Guinea. Asian Mar Biol 2:69–84Google Scholar
  55. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical Analysis. Prentice-Hall, LondonGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. J. Frisch
    • 1
    • 2
  • R. Baker
    • 1
    • 3
  • J-P. A. Hobbs
    • 1
    • 2
  • L. Nankervis
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Marine and Tropical BiologyJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.NOAA FisheriesSEFSC Galveston LaboratoryGalvestonUSA

Personalised recommendations