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Recreational fishing. Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Fishing for fun, not food: Study takes stock of recreational fishing impacts

New management schemes needed to maintain stocks in fisheries worldwide -- A new paper by an international team of researchers argues that decision-makers and fishing organizations must recognize the growing role of recreational fishing and the potential pressures it places on fish stocks.

The vast majority of people who fish in the world do so for pleasure, not food. Yet despite the substantial impacts these fishers have on fish populations and aquatic ecosystems worldwide, fishery management approaches still focus on the production of protein rather than quality leisure.

A new paper co-led by Yale economist Eli Fenichel argues that policymakers, resource managers, and recreational fishing organizations must recognize the growing role of recreational fishing and the potential pressures it places on fish stocks in order to maintain fishing opportunities now and for the future.

Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team of authors suggests that these stakeholders take steps to moderate these increasing impacts, including new management schemes, improved data collection and monitoring, and strategies that better signal to anglers that they are tapping into a common-pool resource.

While the authors suggest that recreational fisheries be placed on equal footing with commercial fisheries, the policies need not be draconian or restrictive, Fenichel said. Rather, they suggest more nuanced, locally driven management schemes that allow greater flexibility for fishers in addition to assuring equitable access to fish stocks.

"We're not advocating for heavy-handed, command-and-control type regulation," said Fenichel, associate professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). "Rather, we're advocating for systems that better evaluate the complexities of these fisheries, that better communicate concerns about scarcity and costs to fishers and encourages people to consider some of the costs they're imposing on others either today or in the future."

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