We address an FRDC priority to address fisher behaviour to improve the outcome following capture of sharks and rays in Victoria, foster greater environmental stewardship in Victorian fishers.
In Victoria, rapidly rising numbers of recreational fishers in faster boats equipped with accurate navigational aids, is creating new pressures on some chondrichthyan species. Our partner VRFish has survey data showing that a large proportion of Victorian recreational fishers lack knowledge on how to handle and release rays and the requirements to release them unharmed, demonstrating a clear need to provide suitable education. There is need to develop best-practice protocols that ensure the high survival of released animals and the safety of the fishers handling them, that also meet community expectations on the humane treatment of these animals, especially in light of recent media and public concern. Recreational fishers are very supportive of education and awareness strategies (VRFish survey data), so we will address the need to provide them.
To achieve better outcomes for captured chondrichthyans, there is a need to improve fisher behaviour and practices by acquiring information on current practices and to use our expert knowledge of the range of responses to capture and handling by these species. This will provide the basis for developing the best capture and handling protocols to be adopted by fishers. To promote community uptake of improved handling practices and increased survival on release there is a need to produce, provide and distribute these protocols to recreational and professional fishers in Victoria, to assist them in adopting best-practice through behavioural change and to encourage greater environmental awareness and stewardship. Extension programs are needed to engage the wider community and support educational programs about recreational fishing.