Population growth in coastal cities, increasing tourism-based fishing, increasing effectiveness of searching (GPS) and capture (tackle) technologies, and competition for more accessible inshore fish species have contributed to an increasing number of recreational fishers travelling further offshore to target Commonwealth-managed species such as billfishes, tunas and shelf species. Griffiths and Pepperell (2006) documented that recreational fishers in Australia interact with over 1164 taxa of fish and may have a significant interaction with 20 Commonwealth fisheries. However, the current extent of recreational fishing impacts on these species are poorly known. Consequently, in 2006 ComFRAB identified this significant knowledge gap as a high research priority.
The long-term sustainability and equitable sharing (resource allocation) of Commonwealth-managed fish species is dependent upon good fisheries management. Management decisions are ultimately guided by accurate stock assessments that integrate all possible fishing mortality sources, which include commercial, recreational and indigenous fisheries. However, due to the low interaction between recreational fishers and Commonwealth-managed species in the past, the management of recreational fishing has largely been the responsibility of the states.
Numerous recreational fishing surveys have been undertaken in coastal, estuarine and freshwater systems by state fisheries agencies, focusing on local issues or a subset of species. However, the complexity and expense of collecting broad-based recreational catch and effort data for offshore species in Commonwealth waters has seen the problem addressed in very few instances, mainly by opportunistic surveys by state fisheries agencies at fishing tournaments. As a consequence, long-term information on recreational catches of Commonwealth-managed species is currently inadequate for inclusion in stock assessments. Therefore, a more concerted effort is required to monitor recreational fishing in Commonwealth fisheries. This will provide important information to guide management in order to ensure the sustainability and equitable allocation of fish resources shared by recreational and commercial sectors.