Optimising Compliance Outcomes in Recreational Fisheries

Project Number:



University of Western Australia (UWA)

Principal Investigator:

Jade Lindley

Project Status:


FRDC Expenditure:



This research questions how best to optimise compliance within the WA and SA blue swimmer crab fishery. Optimising 'cooperative compliance' in a fishery should consider the perspectives of those paying management costs, those tasked with management and fishers themselves, yet little formal study exists of the perceptions of the effectiveness of recreational fisheries rules and their impact on the overall fishing experience. WA Peel-Harvey and SA blue swimmer crab recreational fisheries are large, iconic, accessible and popular fisheries. A licence is not required and inspections often reveal high levels of noncompliance with regulations, requiring intensive education and enforcement efforts. These fisheries present a challenge: minimising management costs and restrictions while maximising recreational fisher enjoyment can be conflicting aims. There is clearly a need to identify optimal education and enforcement strategies that can be demonstrated to work well in a recreational context of low inspection coverage (typically fewer than 10% of fishing opportunities are subject to inspection in recreational fisheries) with a cryptic fisher population that lacks licencing or registration requirements to target education. FRDC 2014/206 led to development of a Compliance Outcomes Framework adopted by WA and SA, but a need remains to develop metrics for that framework. Perceptions of the effectiveness of rules and their impact on the recreational fishing experience could meet that need. Prospective longitudinal studies are the gold standard in measuring change over time and demonstrating causality for that change. To determine the cost-effectiveness of such a study for a fishery, there is a need for scoping work to ascertain suitability of existing datasets, sampling methodologies and what skills and experience would be required to undertake the work. This project will consider those issues and others to determine the feasibility of undertaking such longitudinal studies to routinely assess the effectiveness of fisher education and enforcement strategies and how rules impact on fisher enjoyment. This application targets Human Dimensions Research Goal 2: Understanding compliance behaviour of fishers.


1. To characterise the quality and contents of compliance datasets held by WA and SA government agencies and specific to two recreational blue swimmer crab fisheries, in order to evaluate their adequacy for social science research objectives such as longitudinal studies.

2. To analyse existing blue swimmer crab compliance datasets for trends and insights and test those findings against reference groups.

3. To contrast recreational blue swimmer crab fisher’s attitudes towards compliance in WA and SA to their own, and the other jurisdictions' management frameworks.

4. Determine whether illegal catch can be estimated based on assessment of available data and analysis of drivers of non-compliance.

5. To conduct a proof of concept that scopes out the resources, expertise and design necessary to show changes in blue swimmer crab fisher behaviour and attitudes and demonstrate any causality to education and enforcement strategies and their effect on 'cooperative compliance'.

6. To better understand how recreational blue swimmer crab fishers in both jurisdictions obtain information and respond to education and enforcement strategies.