ENVIRONMENT: Another national survey?

A male bluethroat wrasse (kelpie) is an undesirable rec fishing species. Image source: Rick Stuart-Smith/ Reef Life Survey, License: CC BY Attribution, http://www.fishesofaustralia.net.au

FIFTEEN years ago there was a National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey undertaken across Australia, using a sampling technique commonly known as the phone-diary method. That requires several thousand phone interviews of anglers backed by analysis of a smaller number of diary records and some boat ramp interviews. The results are then used to draw conclusions about catch rates, participation, expenditure and economic value, using analytical tools tested initially in other parts of the world.

Trouble is that surveys are both expensive and not entirely reliable. The original national effort suffered a bit in the credibility department when it reported very high harvest rates for species that hardly any rec fisho would consider keeping…fish like wirrahs, saltwater catfish and kelpies. It also suggested that the rec harvest exceeded the commercial catch for a number of key species such as yellowfin bream and mulloway, and those results are trotted out continuously by the commercial sector when engaging in “robust” debate with us reccies.

Both these issues are methodologically related, we reckon. If a relatively few surveyed fishos report keeping a few less desirable species and that gets multiplied through the total angling population you get a false impression. Similarly if some gun bream or jewie fishos are surveyed and the multiplier is applied, then maybe it looks like the rec harvest of these species is pretty big. But, as we know, not all anglers are equal in ability or effort, and plenty practise catch and release. We always thought that maybe the original survey assumed that a “caught” fish equated with a “dead” fish, which survival studies over the last 15 years have shown not to be true.

Commercial operators have to keep accurate catch records, so their data is always going to be better than ours…unless all anglers have to keep catch records, and that won’t happen. The Keep Australia Fishing report prepared by Martin Salter a few years back advocated for a national angling licence system to enable preparation of a national angler database, which would be of immense value in both lobbying pollies on our various causes and providing solid data on catch rates and expenditure. But don’t hold your breath…our states and territory governments literally can’t agree on the time of day half the year, let alone something like this.

The new survey would be based on ABARE’s report A framework for regular recreational fishing surveys, if that report is endorsed later in the year at the Australian Fisheries Management Forum and about $6m in funding is approved. Then survey team leader elect Lee Georgeson will get cracking with much the same phone-diary-interview approach as was used 15 years ago…..hopefully with the help of some improved technology and with reference to the methodological issues and odd results that came up last time around.

What's your reaction?

Related Posts

Load More Posts Loading...No More Posts.