Dynamic catch trends in the history of recreational spearfishing in Australia

Young, Matthew A.L., Foale, Simon, and Bellwood, David R. (2015) Dynamic catch trends in the history of recreational spearfishing in Australia. Conservation Biology, 29 (3). pp. 784-794.

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The sustained decline in marine fisheries worldwide underscores the need to understand and monitor fisheries trends and fisher behavior. Recreational fisheries are unique in that they are not subject to the typical drivers that influence commercial and artisanal fisheries (e.g., markets or food security). Nevertheless, although exposed to a different set of drivers (i.e., interest or relaxation), recreational fisheries can contribute to fishery declines. Recreational fisheries are also difficult to assess due to an absence of past monitoring and traditional fisheries data. Therefore, we utilized a nontraditional data source (a chronology of spearfishing publications) to document historical trends in recreational spearfishing in Australia between 1952 and 2009. We extracted data on reported fish captures, advertising, and spearfisher commentary and used regression models and ordination analyses to assess historical change. The proportion of coastal fish captures reported declined approximately 80%, whereas the proportion of coral reef and pelagic fish reports increased 1750% and 560%, respectively. Catch composition shifted markedly from coastal temperate or subtropical fishes during the 1950s to 1970s to coral reef and pelagic species in the 1990s to 2000s. Advertising data and commentary by spearfishers indicated that pelagic fish species became desired targets. The mean weight of trophy coral reef fishes also declined significantly over the study period (from approximately 30–8 kg). Recreational fishing presents a highly dynamic social–ecological interface and a challenge for management. Our results emphasize the need for regulatory agencies to work closely with recreational fishing bodies to observe fisher behavior, detect shifts in target species or fishing intensity, and adapt regulatory measures.

Item ID: 38246
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1523-1739
Keywords: coral reef fisheries, fishery declines, fisheries trends, historical marine ecology, recreational fishing, spearfishing
Funders: Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies)
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2015 01:08
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 100%
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