Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

Monitoring interannual variation in recreational fisheries under the influence of drought, bushfires, floods and a global pandemic. (#10)

Faith Ochwada-Doyle 1 , Nathan Miles 2 , Julian Hughes 1 , Jeffery Murphy 3 , Kate Stark 4 , Michael Lowry 5 , Laurie West 6 , Matt D. Taylor 5
  1. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Narrandera, NSW, Australia
  2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Narrandera, NSW, Australia
  3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Woollongong, NSW, Australia
  4. Institute of Marine & Arctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  5. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Taylors Beach, NSW, Australia
  6. Kewagama Research, Doonan, Queensland, Australia

As social and ecological systems, recreational fisheries often show temporal variation in response to changes that affect either ecological processes or human behaviour. Using a time-series of recreational fishing data collected in synchrony with a series of extreme climate-related events and the COVID-19 pandemic, we demonstrate the utility of off-site surveys in monitoring the variability in recreational fishing that can co-occur with environmental and societal change. We show how annual freshwater fishing effort, total catch and species-specific catch were successfully estimated across New South Wales, Australia during 2013/14, 2017/18 and 2019/20 and examine these metrics in relation to a severe drought period; the “Black Summer” bushfires; heavy widespread flooding and the spread of COVID-19, which impacted human mobility and travel. Statistically significant variation in recreational effort, overall finfish catch and species-specific catch was detected between 2013/14, the period that preceded these events, and the latter years. This variation is discussed in relation to the ecological shifts and changes in human behaviour induced by the events. Societal and climate-related changes pose ongoing threats to aquatic systems and necessitate adaptive measures to manage both inland and coastal recreational fisheries. This type of targeted monitoring and analyses enable policy makers and scientists to identify problematic trends in recreational fisheries, and guide adaptation. Future studies that include reference locations not subject to extreme weather events or societal disruptions may support inferences about a causal relationship between atypical events and patterns of recreational fishing.