Equitable fisheries management requires an information base on all extractive and non-extractive users of the resource. This has been well implemented for the commercial fishing sector where legislated catch and effort returns are standard practice. However, many inshore fisheries incorporate a significant recreational sector and efforts to collect comprehensive data from this sector have generally been ad hoc, responding to critical management needs rather than an orderly, routine monitoring program.
Although increased research effort has been allocated to recreational fishery data collection, a national assessment of the sector has not recently been attempted. The only previous national survey in Australia was conducted in 1983 by PA Management Consultants. Their results drew widespread attention to the scale and economic impact of recreational fishing in Australia and, although subject to some criticism, are still cited today despite the passage of 15 years.
An urgent need therefore exists to produce relevant and up to date recreational fishery statistics. The adoption of the National Policy by SCFA and MCFFA recognises this need and has provided the impetus for the work of the Steering Committee to date, and for this application to implement the National Survey. The primary focus of the Survey is to collect nationally consistent and comparable data on catch, effort, participation rates, demographics, economic activity, attitudes and awareness covering all aspects of ‘non-commercial’ fishing. These comprehensive datasets will then be available for incorporation into stock assessments of the nation's fisheries and resource allocation decisions.
In addition to the telephone / diary survey of the general population, two other components of the overall Survey are being designed – development of a survey of indigenous communities and of international visiting fishers. While these latter components will have different value to each State and Territory, the combination of recreational, indigenous and international fishing data will provide a comprehensive picture of non-commercial fishing, and allow exhaustive analysis of the extractive sectors of Australia’s fishing resources.