The best available information--some case studies from NSW, Australia, of conservation-related management responses which impact on recreational fishers
In the state of New South Wales, southeastern Australia, fishing is one of the most popular recreational activities in coastal and freshwater environments. Although a wide variety of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, other invertebrates and algae are exploited by fishers for sport, food and bait, there is little quantitative information on the catches, efforts and effects of humans on populations of these organisms. Although there have been a number of surveys of the activities of recreational fishers in lakes, rivers, estuaries, and more recently the marine environment, there have been few such surveys of the catch, effort, effects and/or motivations of other human user groups such as spearfishers, SCUBA divers, aquarium fish collectors and conservationists. Ideally, fisheries managers use catch and effort data together with information on species biology and human usage to determine management strategies aimed at sharing the fisheries resources in order to maximise the benefits for both present and future generations. Generally, fisheries managers must thus use 'the best available information' and the results of public consultation to make balanced management decisions. In this paper we present case studies on Aquatic Reserves and protected aquatic species which illustrate NSW Fisheries' management responses utilising 'the best available information' and the 'precautionary principle' to protect aquatic habitats and species in NSW waters. We then consider some of the positive and negative impacts that such management strategies may have on users groups. Unfortunately, to date there have been very few examples of the use of 'adaptive management' to test the effectiveness of NSW Fisheries' management decisions, though this would be the ideal approach under most such circumstances.
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