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Swallowing the Bait: Is Recreational Fishing in Australia Ecologically Sustainable?

  • Year: 2002
  • Author: McPhee, DP; Leadbitter, D; Skilleter, GA
  • Journal Name: Pacific Conservation Biology
  • Journal Number: Vol. 8, No. 1
  • Country: Australia

Recreational fishing is a growing component of the total fishery harvest in many countries, but the impacts of this sector on aquatic resources are often ignored in the management of aquatic systems. Recreational fishing is open-access, and in many inshore regions, the recreational harvest exceeds the commercial harvest. The environmental impacts from recreational angling can be both ecologically significant and broad in scope and include: the removal of a considerable biomass of a wide variety of species; discarded by-catch; possible trophic cascades through the removal of higher order carnivores; impacts on habitat through bait harvesting; impacts of introduced and translocated species to support angling fisheries; direct impacts on sea-birds, marine mammals and reptiles; and angler generated pollution. Management, for several reasons, has largely ignored these environmental impacts from recreational fishing. Recreational fishing impacts are cumulative, whereas there is a tendency for consideration of impacts in isolation. Recreational fishing lobbyists have generally been successful in focusing public and political attention on other impacts such as commercial fishing, and recreational fishing has tended not to come under close scrutiny from conservation and environmental groups. Without changes to the monitoring and management of recreational fisheries that incorporate the broad ecological impacts from the activity, it may not be ecologically sustainable in the long term and Australia will not meet its international obligations of protecting aquatic biodiversity. The definition of property rights and appropriate measures to prevent or manage large scale marine restocking are two emerging issues that also need to be addressed.

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