We generally know that recreational fisheries have a bigtime economic impact, and that anglers gain significant value from time spent on the water—how else could we possibly justify the sometimes-embarrassing sums that we “invest” in boats, tackle, apparel, and who-knows what else? However, while there is awareness that recreational fisheries are important, regularly collecting economic data from the sector, and then consistently incorporating such data into regulatory decision-making, has been a persistent challenge for scientists and managers, as well as a source of frustration for members of the recreational community. After all, such information could help managers more efficiently allocate harvest among sectors, predict recreational fishing activity as conditions change, and set catch limits that most benefit anglers while keeping stocks healthy, to name just a few examples.
To help define a path forward, in late April, about 60 recreational fishery stakeholders, managers, and fisheries economics experts converged in-person and virtually to attend a multi-day Recreational Fisheries Economics Workshop hosted by NOAA Fisheries. The goal of the workshop was simple, if ambitious: to identify how the recreational community can collectively engage to improve economic data collection, analysis, reliability, of estimates, and ultimately, application to decision-making.
Through presentations, breakout sessions, and group discussions, workshop participants learned about the types of economic analysis that can be used in fisheries management, the data needed to support those efforts, examples of how recreational economic considerations have been successfully folded into management (including in New England and the Mid-Atlantic), and the potential for electronic data collection (think smartphone apps) to improve the ease of gathering economic information. On The Water staff also had the opportunity to contribute lessons learned on effective communication with anglers and discuss how such approaches could be applied to economic considerations.
Stay tuned for a report summarizing key takeaways and defining the next steps that we can collectively take to move the ball forward in this critical area.