Perceived Benefits and Costs of Recreational-Only Fishing Areas to the Recreational and Commercial Estuarine Fishery within North Queensland
Renae C. Tobin and Stephen G. Sutton
Abstract .—Recreational-only fishing areas (ROFAs; i.e., areas where commercial fishing is excluded, leaving sole fishing access to recreational fishers) are often implemented to reduce conflict between recreational and commercial fishing sectors and to enhance recreational fishing quality. This study explored recreational and commercial fishers’ perceptions of estuarine ROFAs in north Queensland, Australia, with the aim of understanding whether desired socioeconomic benefits are realized. Recreational and commercial fishers in the study area believed that competition between the sectors was a problem; however, only recreational fishers suggested increased segregation of the sectors via ROFAs as a solution. Recreational fishers were largely unaware of the location of current ROFAs in the study area and therefore did not preferentially use these areas compared to areas open to commercial fishing. Likewise, recreational fishers did not deliberately avoid areas frequented by commercial fishers, and the presence or absence of commercial fishing was not a major factor influencing recreational fishing site choice. Further, while recreational fishers expected to catch more fish in areas where commercial fishing does not occur, they had not noticed an improvement in catches in more recently formed ROFAs. Collectively, these results suggest that the existing ROFAs in the study area are not currently providing the expected benefits for fishers and that adding more ROFAs would be unlikely to reduce conflict between commercial and recreational fishers. The effectiveness of the ROFAs may be improved if recreational fishers are better informed about their location. Further investigation is required to understand why recreational fishers do not choose to use current ROFAS, the cause of conflict between the recreational and commercial sectors, and whether expected catch benefits of ROFAs are being realized.