Recreational fishers regularly access both state and offshore Commonwealth waters but offshore fishing is poorly understood. There has been recent global and Australian growth in offshore Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and a better understanding of recreational fishers accessing both these MPAs, as well as offshore stocks of fish more generally, is important for sustainability of catch, communication and compliance. Recreational fishing is popular in Australia and is managed by individual States in collaboration with the Commonwealth agencies: the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) and Australian Marine Parks (AMP). Our study investigated two methodological approaches to gain a better understanding of recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters (>3 nautical miles offshore).
First, we undertook a pan-continental scale comparison of Australian offshore recreational fisheries research and its applications to fisheries and marine park management. In the absence of data collection on recreational fishing in offshore waters by the Commonwealth, we examined two state-wide Marine Recreational Fishery (MRF) surveys, conducted throughout Western Australia (WA) and New South Wales (NSW), to see if they could meet the Commonwealth’s information needs. The specific aims included (1) a comparison of state-based approaches for data collection in WA and NSW, (2) estimates (with associated uncertainty) of catch occurring state-wide for nine species of interest to AFMA and (3) estimates (with associated uncertainty) of fishing effort and catch (all species) occurring within two AMP: Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP) in WA and the Hunter Marine Park (HMP) in NSW.
We also undertook smaller scale on-site surveys along the east coast of Tasmania over a busy holiday period using a novel application of trail cameras combined with interviews on boat ramps of marine recreational trailer-boat fishers. We did this to investigate fishers’ behaviours, perceptions and distributions in relation to a well-established offshore marine park. Our aims were to (1) trial the usefulness of trail cameras to collect novel primary data that can be used in management, (2) to guide collection of on-site interview data for anglers, especially those fishing offshore, and (3) to test an interview questionnaire for usefulness in investigating perceptions and catch of fishers.