Recreational angling is a popular past time in South Africa and has been shown to make a substantial contribution to the economy. However, recreational fishing pressure has led to the severe decline and collapse of many of the species targeted in the fishery. Recent studies suggest that both the numbers many of the fish species targeted have vulnerable life history strategies, with the result that the numbers of anglers and their rates of catches have declined dramatically in the last two decades. While fisheries management in South Africa has focused on commercial and subsistence fishing during this time, it is clear that a concerted effort is required to address the problems in the recreational sector, in order to rebuild stocks and maintain this valuable fishery. Currently access to the recreational fishery is largely unrestricted (requiring purchase of a low-priced permit) and while there are size and bag limits, there is little compliance monitoring outside of marine protected areas. In order to manage inshore linefish stocks and their fisheries effectively, the recreational sector needs to be better understood.
While most fisheries managers can see the advantages of controlling the effort and catches of recreational anglers, it is important to recognize the tradeoffs between the impacts of different spatial (marine reserves) and non-spatial management measures (e.g. bag limits) on the demand for fishing as well as on the status of stocks and hence sustainability of the fishery. These tradeoffs may be complex because of the heterogeneity of the angler population as well as the spatial heterogeneity of the coastal areas that have to be managed.
Spatial factors play a major role in angler effort decisions. In the first phase of this study (2012) we have described the influence of source populations, crime potential, accessibility and expected catch (mean catch per unit effort) on fishing effort along the coast. In comparing current fishing effort with past effort, holding other factors constant, we have found that the 2002 ban on the use of off-road vehicles in the coastal zone has had a significant impact on recreational fishing effort. These finding suggest that accessibility is a strong tool for creating de facto marine protected areas for managing source stocks. In addition, the data show a general decline in fishing effort over the past 15 years which is more difficult to explain, as the ban on off-road vehicles only explains part of the decline.
While the first phase was based on existing data on effort and catch alone from creel surveys, in this phase of the study (2013), questionnaire data will be collected to further investigate reasons for the decline in angling effort and to investigate the potential response of anglers to alternative management measures. The analysis will be based on the assumption that anglers differ in their motivation; for some the catch is critical while for others the activity of fishing is itself a reward. Understanding the relative proportions of different types of anglers and their responsiveness to different management measures in different management contexts will help to inform management strategies to recover line fish stocks without overly compromising the value of the fishery.