Approaches to regulating recreational fisheries: balancing biology with angler satisfaction

Abstract

Recreational fishing is practiced by ~ 350 million people globally, and while it historically has been thought to have minimal ecological impact relative to commercial fishing, numerous recreational fisheries have recently declined or collapsed. The potential for recreational fishing to contribute to ecological decline, as well as the incentives of recreational anglers that are distinct from those of commercial fishers, highlights the need for greater understanding of recreational fisheries regulatory options. To aid managers in the decision-making process, we conduct the first comparative review of all seven major approaches to recreational fisheries regulation: harvest size restrictions, harvest quantity restrictions, spatial management, temporal restrictions, accessibility restrictions, rights-based management, and gear restrictions. We provide a synthetic guide for students and practitioners covering how these regulations can benefit target stocks, their potential limitations in achieving sustainability, and angler perceptions of their relative effectiveness and behavioral impositions. Considering the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy, we identify three key fishery metrics that together can guide selection of a suitable combination of regulations that will achieve the requisite biological outcome without restricting angler behavior more than is necessary. With this perspective, we reflect on uncertainties that complicate informed and effective, recreational fisheries regulation.

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Acknowledgements

This research is the product of a University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences FISH513 graduate seminar on “Approaches to Recreational Fisheries Management: Balancing Biology with Angler Satisfaction”, co-designed and -led by MCA and CMA. MCA received funding from the International Women’s Fishing Association Scholarship Trust—Kay Rybovich Memorial Scholarship that supported completion of the manuscript after the end of the graduate seminar. We thank Fred Herling of the National Park Service, Scott Osborne and Matias Gimenez of Avalon Cuban Fishing Centers, and Jack Vitek and Marty Arostegui of the IGFA for providing information, or facilitating its acquisition, on accessibility restrictions or recreational-only fishing areas.

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MCA is a member and unpaid representative of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) but the views expressed in this manuscript do not necessarily represent those of the IGFA. Furthermore, neither the IGFA nor the funder had any involvement in study design, manuscript preparation, or the decision to publish. CMA, RFB, CD, EAF, and ARJ declare no conflict of interest.

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Arostegui, M.C., Anderson, C.M., Benedict, R.F. et al. Approaches to regulating recreational fisheries: balancing biology with angler satisfaction. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-021-09662-y

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Keywords

  • Angler
  • Effort
  • Fishery regulation
  • Fishing mortality
  • Recreational fishing
  • Welfare