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Most recreational fishers in Australia support marine sanctuaries

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imageRecreational fishers adjacent to an established marine park in NSW. Author provided

More than 70% of recreational fishers support no-take marine sanctuaries according to our research, published recently in Marine Policy.

This study contradicts the popular perception that fishers are against establishing no-take marine reserves to protect marine life. In fact, the vast majority of fishers we surveyed agreed that no-take sanctuaries improve marine environmental values, and do not impair their fishing.


Read more: More than 1,200 scientists urge rethink on Australia's marine park plans


No-take marine sanctuaries, which ban taking or disturbing any marine life, are widely recognised as vital for conservation. However, recent media coverage and policy decisions in Australia suggest recreational fishers are opposed to no-take sanctuary zones created within marine parks.

This perceived opposition has been reinforced by recreational fishing interest groups who aim to represent fishers’ opinions in policy decisions. However, it was unclear whether the opinions expressed by these groups matches those of fishers on-the-ground in established marine parks.

To answer this, we visited ten state-managed marine parks across Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales. We spoke to 778 fishers at boat ramps that were launching or retrieving their boats to investigate their attitudes towards no-take sanctuary zones.

Our findings debunk the myth that recreational fishers oppose marine sanctuaries. We found 72% of active recreational fishers in established marine parks (more than 10 years old) support their no-take marine sanctuaries. Only 9% were opposed, and the remainder were neutral.

We also found that support rapidly increases (and opposition rapidly decreases) after no-take marine sanctuaries are established, suggesting that once fishers have a chance to experience sanctuaries, they come to support them.

imageRecreational fishers support for marine sanctuaries increases with marine park age.

Fishers in established marine parks were also overwhelmingly positive towards marine sanctuaries. Most thought no-take marine sanctuaries benefited the marine environment (78%) and have no negative impacts on their fishing (73%).

We argue that recreational fishers, much like other Australians, support no-take marine sanctuaries because of the perceived environmental benefits they provide. This is perhaps not surprising, considering that appreciating nature is one of the primary reasons many people go fishing in the first place.

imageExploring marine life within an established marine park.Tim Langlois

In the past opposition from recreational fishing groups has been cited in the decision to scrap proposed no-take sanctuaries around Sydney, to open up established no-take sanctuaries to fishing and to reduce sanctuaries within the Australia Marine Parks (formerly the Commonwealth Marine Reserve network).

Our findings suggest that these policy decisions do not reflect the beliefs of the wider recreational fishing community, but instead represent the loud voices of a minority.

We suggest that recreational fishing groups and policy makers should survey grass roots recreational fishing communities (and other people who use marine parks) to gauge the true level of support for no-take marine sanctuaries, before any decisions are made.


Read more: The backflip over Sydney's marine park is a defiance of science


Despite what headlines may say, no-take marine sanctuaries are unlikely to face long lasting opposition from recreational fishers. Instead, our research suggests no-take marine sanctuaries provide a win-win: protecting marine life whilst fostering long term support within the recreational fishing community.

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Matthew Navarro received funding from the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Jock Clough Marine Foundation to conduct this research. He currently receives funding under the Australian Government National Environmental Sciences Program to investigate biodiversity and socio-economics benchmarks within the Australian Marine Park network.

Dr Marit Kragt receives funding from a range of sources including the Australian Marine Conservation Society, and is a recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE160101306). She is on the Board of Directors of the Australasian Agricultural & Resource Economics Society (AARES), and serves as an associate editor for the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Tim Langlois received funding from the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Jock Clough Marine Foundation to conduct this research. He currently receives funding under the Australian Government National Environmental Sciences Program to investigate biodiversity and socio-economics benchmarks within the Australian Marine Park network.

Authors: Matt Navarro, Post-doctoral Fellow, University of Western Australia

Read more http://theconversation.com/most-recreational-fishers-in-australia-support-marine-sanctuaries-112960