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Leading expert calls for recreational fishing review

Leading fisheries expert, Dr Daryl McPhee has called for the adoption of individual management plans for Australia's major coastal cities to safeguard one of the nation's most popular pastimes - recreational fishing.

Dr Mc Phee, who is Associate Professor of Environmental Management and Planning at Bond University, headed the research, which was published in international journal Sustainability, into the challenges faced in developing sustainable urban recreational fisheries.

Dr McPhee said with the recreational catch of key species in some areas exceeding the commercial catch, the development of individual management plans for coastal capital cities was crucial in preserving the positive environmental and economic impacts of the sport.

"The management of recreational fisheries has lagged behind that of its commercial counterpart, and given the specific circumstances associated with urban coastal recreational fisheries, a rethink of management strategies for these important environments is required," he said.

"While there is a clear role for typical management tools, such as minimum legal sizes and bag limits, these methods alone cannot deliver the management necessary for sustainable urban ecosystems.

"With the participation of local recreational fishing communities, Urban Recreational Fisheries Management Plans (URFMP) need to be developed for each coastal city, with specific objectives tailored to the area.

"These plans need to work across all levels of government in order to deliver integrated and evidence-based management that addresses important issues including habitat creation and restoration, such as artificial reefs; coastal infrastructure, ensuring safe recreational fishing access, and stock enhancement."

Dr McPhee said the public had a part to play too, with 'citizen science', or public scientific research, an important consideration for new management plans.

"Encouraging the public to be involved in project-monitoring and information-gathering can be a cost-effective way to manage recreational fishing," he said.

"The widespread use of smartphones allows avid fishers to collect data that could be used for urban fisheries research."

Dr McPhee said the development of new plans should initially focus on large urban centres such as Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney and Melbourne.

"There have been coordinated projects in the past that have been successful, such as the improvement of water quality in Moreton Bay, which was driven by the Healthy Waterways Partnerships and supported by three layers of government," he said.

"That's our template. We need that sort of approach for the management of recreational fishing."

The study reported more than 1.4 million Australians enjoy fishing, with more than 10 per cent of the industrialised world regularly taking part in the activity.  

Dr McPhee said the management of urban recreational fishing needed to be refocussed to ensure it remained a sustainable pastime for future generations.

"Recreational fishing is an exceptionally important leisure activity that promotes physical and mental wellbeing, social interaction and a respect for nature.  It also provides children with opportunities to connect with the environment and economic benefits to coastal communities," he said.

"Recreational fishing is an essential 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.

"Despite the paramount importance of recreational fishing and the role of urban habitats, there has been little specific consideration given to the management of these important ecosystems."

Dr McPhee said in addition to its health benefits, recreational fishing was 'big business', with $650 million spent annually on fishing tackle alone. 

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