Urban recreational fisheries in the Australian coastal zone: The sustainability challenge

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Recreational fishing is an important wildlife harvesting activity in urban coastal areas, and recreational harvest in these areas can frequently exceed the commercial harvest. Recreational fishing is a key way that many members of the public experience the environment. The activity enhances social capital, promotes respect for nature, provides health benefits and can provide economic benefits to coastal communities. It is also an important driver of the science on aquatic animals and habitats, and an important tangible reason for many members of the public to conserve and protect aquatic resources. Overall, there has been little specific consideration of urban recreational fisheries management in Australia, despite the paramount importance of urban areas as a focus of recreational fishing activity. This paper identifies that in order to maximize individual and societal benefits from recreational fishing, there needs to be a refocussing of management with the aim of being more holistic. Historically, fisheries management in Australia has focused on maximum sustainable yield (MSY) or maximum economic yield (MEY) which is relevant for the commercial fishing sector, but neither of these is directly relevant to recreational fisheries. This paper identifies that Urban Fisheries Management Plans are required that recognize the specific issues associated with urban recreational fisheries. These plans need to coordinate within and between levels of government and have clear management objectives relevant to urban recreational fisheries. Enhanced opportunities for meaningful citizen science can be incorporated at multiple levels within these plans and this can engender public support for environmental stewardship, as well as fill a very important gap in the knowledge base necessary for managing the activity. As urban recreational fisheries are often occurring in highly modified or degraded habitats, a central element of these plans needs to be habitat restoration and this can have broader benefits for aquatic health. Other management tools include habitat creation (e.g., artificial reefs), optimization of coastal infrastructure as fisheries habitat, and stock enhancement. Overall, Urban Fisheries Management Plans represent a necessary evolution of fisheries management to better address the specific challenges of urban recreational fisheries management, and to best ensure that benefits are optimised.

Original languageEnglish
Article number422
Pages (from-to)422-434
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2017


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