Catch, effort and fishing practices in a recreational gillnet fishery: assessing the impacts and response to management change
Lyle, JM and Tracey, SR, Catch, effort and fishing practices in a recreational gillnet fishery: assessing the impacts and response to management change, Fisheries Research, 177 pp. 50-58. ISSN 0165-7836 (2016) [Refereed Article]
Gillnets are typically considered to be a commercial fishing gear yet their use by recreational fishers is permitted in several developed countries, often with few if any restrictions on the total number of users. Despite this there have been very few attempts to assess the impacts of recreational gillnet fisheries both in terms of harvest and implications for bycatch. Recreational gillnetting has a long history in Tasmania, Australia, and over the past two decades the fishery has been the focus of a number of management measures to improve fishing practices. In this study, the fishing activity of recreational gillnet license-holders was monitored for 12-months using a telephone-diary based panel survey. Catch, effort and fishing practices were compared with previous recreational fishing surveys and the commercial fishery. During 2010 an estimated 6600 recreational license-holders used gillnets, accounting for 25,712 (95%CI 22,142–28,901) net-days of effort and a total catch of 173,922 (95%CI 147,165–202,950) marine organisms, 35.5% of which were discarded. The recreational fishery is comprised of two main sub-fisheries, a mixed reef-fish fishery and a fishery for marine farm escapees. Four species, three representing key target species and one primarily a bycatch species, accounted for just over half of the total gillnet catch by number. The harvested component of the recreational gillnet catch was comparable to or exceeded commercial landings for the key species, highlighting the importance of taking account of the recreational fishery in stock assessments and species management. Despite an increase in the number of gillnet license-holders, recreational gillnet effort in Tasmania has halved since the late 1990s. This decline in effort appears to be linked to the greater regulation of fishing practices as well as reduced availability of two key target species, one of which has been classified as over-fished. Although recreational fishing practices have improved, the impacts on target and non-target species, including the incidental capture of seabirds and survival of bycatch, remain issues for concern.