Integration of recreational fishing (RF) into harvest strategies (HS) is necessary for many fisheries in Australia, to account for catches that can equal or exceed commercial catch for some key species and to address biological and experiential objectives of the RF sector. Both the Productivity Commission’s report Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (2016) and the ICES Report from the Working Group Recreational Fishing Surveys (2018) recommend formal integration of RF into stock assessments and harvest strategies. Failure to do so puts sustainable management goals and legislated state and Commonwealth fisheries requirements at risk.
Equitable and quantitative inclusion of RF in harvest strategies is rare. This stems from a traditional focus on the commercial sector and budgetary challenges involved with representatively sampling RF. It is therefore unclear: 1) what types of RF data and monitoring best service stock assessments, (2) which data also track indicators of recreational objectives (often related to the fishing experience), and (3) how to integrate harvest strategy components for multiple sectors. The need to address these knowledge gaps was highlighted by the FRDC priority research call in 2018 - “Integrating recreational fishery data into harvest strategies for multi-sector fisheries in New South Wales”. NSW provides an important test case for addressing issues around RF integration that are faced by most jurisdictions.
Harvest strategy development for multi-sector fisheries requires a transparent and defensible process due to complexities in addressing diverse objectives and apprehension among stakeholder groups. Structured workshops that use easily-understandable, interactive decision support tools and involve independent experts and stakeholder representatives are likely to provide best outcomes. ‘FishPath’ is a leading harvest strategy decision support tool and “bottom up” engagement philosophy that allows experts and stakeholders to interactively contribute to harvest strategy development in a transparent workshop setting. However, it requires additional development in recreational and multi-sector contexts.