Recreational fishing, also referred to as sport or game fishing, is an enjoyable activity that involves angling with a rod, reel, line, hooks and various baits. This type of activity differs from commercial fishing which is professional fishing for profit; and subsistence fishing which involves gathering food or survival.
Recreational fishing is becoming more and more popular, leading to significant impacts on fish stocks. Particularly, they often take larger-than-average amounts of a species – potentially leading to overfishing.
Overfishing can have a number of detrimental effects, such as depleted populations and even species extinction. It also impacts ecosystems by damaging habitats and interfering with natural nutrient cycles for marine plants and animals.
Many countries utilize regulations to manage their recreational fisheries in order to prevent overfishing. These guidelines take into account a fish species’ biology and natural history in order to maintain its population, such as setting size-based harvest limits or season closures to give fish time to spawn.
Fish management may involve catching only a certain number of tons each year, or shutting the fishery down completely once that limit is reached. These regulations are often supplemented by more controversial management tactics like stocking.
These limits on the total amount of fisheries that can be caught are an effective management strategy to reduce overfishing. Furthermore, they protect species by preventing them from being accidentally killed during the process of fishing for food.
But in order to effectively manage recreational fishing, policy makers, resource managers and recreational fishing organizations must do several things. Firstly, they need to develop management systems that create incentives for sustainable fishing practices.
Anglers need incentives that are transparent and unambiguous to help them understand the effects of their catch on a common-pool resource, as well as how this affects sustainability. Furthermore, these costs should include both monetary and nonmonetary amounts such as time spent fishing or other associated activities so that anglers internalize them.
Second, anglers need to be better organized and more involved in management processes. This is essential for improving fisheries governance and management. Furthermore, it will increase participation from anglers, lead to more efficient resource allocations, thus mitigating conflict between them and other stakeholders like commercial fishermen.
Third, it is imperative to better monitor and record the catch of recreational fishermen. This is particularly pertinent for coastal and offshore catches where there are often gaps in available data.
Some countries maintain comprehensive databases that track catches for all recreational fishing activities, but many don’t. This is often due to records being difficult to collect or keep up-to-date, leading to their loss over time.
To fill this data void and estimate the global catch of marine recreational fishing, researchers employed a technique called catch reconstruction. This relied on historical time series data to reconstruct catches for all fishes caught by recreational anglers worldwide. The authors observed that their estimates were generally consistent across time periods and provided an even pattern in catch amounts over time.