Angler Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation: The Future of Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation

Summary and Synthesis

J. Wesley Neal, Tom Lang, Ken Kurzawski, Rebecca M. Krogman, Kevin M. Hunt, and John Taylor


Fisheries management, particularly in the United States and Canada, has long depended on the support and expenditures of anglers and the fishing industry. Anglers spend billions of dollars annually on equipment, licenses, trips, and other related expenses, contributing significantly to the economy and creating millions of jobs while also providing much of the funding for modern conservation. Under the public trust doctrine, the public is the beneficiary of aquatic resources that are managed by government agencies as their trustee. For this arrangement to be successful, the trustee must be accountable for said aquatic resources and the public must be involved in the process. Anglers can be powerful proponents for fish conservation, so it is critical for the future of fisheries, and aquatic resources in general, that anglers remain a large and supportive voice for fish management efforts.

Unfortunately, angling participation has not kept pace with human population growth. As the proportion of anglers in the population declines, their sway with legislative processes and public opinion declines. This loss of support for angling is exacerbated by rising anti-angling sentiment worldwide. Further, as absolute numbers of anglers decline, revenue streams derived from angling decline. Reduction of license dollars and excise tax proceeds limit fisheries management and conservation activities and leads to cutbacks in personnel. To counteract these losses in support and revenue, management entities and others have invested considerable resources into programs designed to recruit new anglers, retain current anglers, and reactivate anglers that previously fished but were lost from the angling population.

The chapters in this book examine the history and development of recreational angling in North America and across the globe and the trends in both angling participation and support for angling by the public. They explore the role of anglers and other stakeholders in the management process, discuss ways to better understand and connect with anglers, and examine developmental changes an individual might make over the course of their angling life. Anglers are a diverse and complex people motivated by a range of factors and limited by countless constraints. Their needs and wants can vary drastically among individuals and over time. To develop more effective R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation) programs, it is critical to fully understand these motivations and constraints and to recognize and appreciate angler diversity. This requires stepping out of the biological arena and considering disciplines that are often foreign to natural resource professionals, such as marketing, sociology, modern communication, and business intelligence.