School of Science
Changes to management of a fisheries resource are often required to ensure ongoing sustainability. However, such changes can sometimes lead to unintended effects such as increased release rates and associated post-release mortality. These effects may be highly variable between species and areas. Recreational fishing management changes were introduced on the west coast of Australia in 2009/10 to recover stocks of demersal scalefish. Key changes included reducing mixed species bag limits across management zones and increasing the minimum size limit for one species in some management zones. The restrictive catch limits resulted in increased release rates of key demersal species. However, whether such increases are significant and sustained over time, and thus of management concern, have not been evaluated. We carried out intervention time series analysis to evaluate the impact of management changes on release rates of four key demersal species for the recreational sector in metropolitan and regional management zones covering ∼8° latitude using an 18-year time series of charter recreational fishery data from July 2002 to January 2020. We observed varying responses in release rates by species and zones, the most common of which were a step increase, a ramp and a temporary increase that decayed. These responses may be related to targeted management changes which influenced fisher behaviour, perceived recreational value of some species and recruitment variation. Our study demonstrates that intervention analysis, which has seen limited use in this context, can assist in evaluating the impact of management changes on different species for recreational fisheries.
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