Effect of Behavior in Recreational Fishing Social-Ecological Systems

Authors: Hillary G. M. Ward, Micheal S. Allen, Edward V. Camp, Nick Cole, Len M. Hunt, Bryan Matthias, John R. Post, Kyle Wilson, and Robert Arlinghaus


Recreational fisheries are empirically tractable examples of social–ecological systems (SESs) that are characterized by complex interactions and feedbacks ranging from local to regional scales. The feedbacks among the three key compartments of the recreational fisheries SES—individual fish and populations, regionally mobile anglers, and regional and state level fisheries managers—are strongly driven by behavior, but they are poorly understood. We review and identify factors, antecedents to behaviors, and behaviors most important to the outcomes of the coupled SES of recreational fisheries, which emerge from a range of social–ecological interactions. Using this information, we identify data gaps, suggest how to reduce uncertainty, and improve management advice for recreational fisheries focusing on open-access situations in inland fisheries. We argue that the seemingly micro-scale and local feedbacks between individual fish, fish populations, anglers, and managers lead to the emergence of important macro-scale patterns—some of which may be undesirable, such as regional overfishing. Hence, understanding the scale at which the behavior-mediated mechanisms and processes identified in this article operate is critical for managing for the sustainability of spatially structured recreational fisheries. We conclude our study by providing relevant research stimuli for the future.

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