Fact sheet

File type: PDF

Mahony T, Adams VM, Navarro M, Jarvis D, Gelves-Gomez F, Stoeckl N, Chuah SH (2023) We like to fish: characterising the recreational fishing population and designing messages to improve compliance – executive summary. Report to the National Environmental Science Program and to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. University of Tasmania.

November 2023


Marketing to fishers directly with clear calls to action is an under utilised strategy by decision makers that can be increased as one of the many tools in the management tool box. However messages must be evidence based and tailored to the correct market segment. This research provides decision makers with the data needed to characterise these segments and tailor messages to them. 

Although the ‘catch’ or ‘take’ of individuals is small, the combined impact of the 4.2 million or so Australians who fish  is significant. In some areas, the intensity of recreational fishing can threaten target species or even local marine biodiversity. Total recreational fishing catches can also exceed those of commercial fishing in popular regions. Alongside quotas, bag limits and other strategies, fishing ‘zones’ that tell fishers where they can and cannot fish play a vital role in the sustainable management of Australia’s marine environments. However, ‘no take’ zones are challenging to monitor and enforce as fishers and fishing grounds are widely dispersed along the vast Australian coastline. And, while the extent of illegal recreational fishing is difficult to quantify, the number of offences reported is growing. 

This report provides program managers with the data needed to define the rec fisher audience and their motivations and demonstrates that messages tailored to these segments can be effective. It details a new evidence-based approach to public messaging to improve the compliance of recreational fishers with Australia’s ‘no take’ marine conservation zones. By investigating ‘who’ fishes, ‘why’ they fish, and ‘what’ their attitudes are to compliance, we identified three distinct ‘types’ of recreational fishers, differentiated by the extent to which they are likely to follow zoning laws. More than half of the fishers surveyed supported sustainable fishing practices, such as ‘no take’ zones Another third had a neutral attitude. We partnered with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to leverage this goodwill, developing and testing new bespoke campaigns to engage fishers with positive messaging and to connect them to the information, apps and maps they need to locate and avoid ‘no take zones – with promising results. Messages to recreational fishers should be tailored based on who they are. This requires policy makers to understand ‘who’ fishers are and ‘what’ motivates them.