Golden fish: evaluating and optimising the biological, social and economic returns of small-scale fisheries

Project Number:



Murdoch University

Principal Investigator:

James Tweedley

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:





Fish and crustacean stocks are under pressure from a range of sources, such as a growing population, increased fishing pressure and anthropogenic changes. These pressures, and the small-scale nature of many fisheries in terms of their economic return, highlight the need to develop cost-effective tools for assessing and valuing these fisheries. Such tools should be able to estimate the social and economic contribution of commercial and recreational fisheries to communities (FRDC 2014/008). However, FRDC 2012/214 has highlighted that ‘poor quality data’ on the economic value of recreational and indigenous fishing limits the development of optimal policies for these fisheries. Advances in aquaculture provide ‘new’ options for managers and the ability to restore or enhance target populations by releasing cultured individuals. Increasing interest from recreational fishers in enhancing fishing experiences and the development of government policies for release programs in WA, NSW and Victoria, combined with the creation of Recreational Fishing Initiatives Funds (RFIF), have focussed attention on restocking/stock enhancement as a potential management option. To maximise the likelihood for success, tools are needed to evaluate the potential effectiveness of any release program in increasing target populations. Combining the results of release program bioeconomic models with social and economic data, such as the increased catch (revenue) generation for commercial fishers and the economic returns and social values of recreational fishing, provides managers with improved decision making abilities based on an understanding of the social and economic implications of those decisions. The ability to assess the social values and economic contributions of fisheries to communities also provides much needed information, particularly on the catch, effort and motivations of recreational fishers, which are currently lacking in WA and can be used in the harvest strategy component of the Marine Stewardship Council certification process and to develop social and economic performance indicators for fisheries (FRDC 2014/008). Recfishwest has committed $100,000 from the WA RFIF to this proposal in recognition of the need for this research.


1. Determine the motivations for using a fishery and the beliefs, attitudes and perceived benefits of release programs and other management options.

2. Determine the total economic value of the recreational and commercial sectors of each selected fishery.

3. Investigate the benefits of release programs in contributing to the optimisation of biological, social and economic objectives for those fisheries

4. Training for the next generation of fisheries and social scientists and fishery economists (Honours, PhD students and early-career researchers) and community engagement and education.