fish-bannerThe science behind the scenes

The sustainability of fishing

It is widely acknowledged that near-shore marine resources in South Africa have been depleted to the point at which the future of many fish stocks is a major environmental concern. Recreational angling has a long and rich history in South Africa, however the role that recreational anglers are playing in marine conservation initiatives and sustainable marine resource use is increasingly being highlighted. There are several causes of the decline in fish stocks, but overfishing and environmental degradation are the two most likely causes in almost every case.

Evidence-based Decisions

We all have opinions on the state of our marine resources, and the causes of fish stock declines. But until these opinions can be tested against credible data and reliable research, they are not likely to influence management decisions. Up until now the management of recreational fisheries in South Africa has relied heavily on data supplied by commercial fishers, and independent scientific surveys, but neither of these are as useful as the massive amount of data that recreational anglers themselves can generate. Anglers’ catch data can reveal real trends in abundance and distribution of fish species that recreational anglers generally target.

Accessing Long-term Data

Historical data are hard to obtain, as recreational catch reports are sparse and inconsistent. However within the recreational angling community, extensive personal records have been kept in the form of catch reports, angling spreadsheets and local scoring systems. If collated and verified in a scientifically robust database, these records can provide scientific evidence of the history of recreational angling along our coastline and can be used to calculate distributions, composition and size structure of fish populations.

Citizen Science

By engaging anglers as active citizen scientists, CatchReport provides a platform on which we can collect and analyse relevant data. Recreational anglers will then be able to contribute to the science supporting fisheries management.

The Value of Good Quality Data

All recorded catches will be entered into a national database and verified by professional researchers. The data drawn from these catches will be maintained at the University of Cape Town’s Marine Research Institute in a centralised database, and will be available for anglers to access their own data. Researchers will analyse trends in catch rates throughout South African waters, and feed these analyses back to the anglers and to the decision-making groups.

The Conservation Benefits

CatchReport can directly contribute to improved stock assessments by providing reliable and relevant data on fish abundance and catch rates. This will allow our researchers to make improved recommendations on catch restrictions such as bag and size limits. By providing recreational catch data the angling communities can secure the future of their own sport. There is no practical alternative. The future of recreational fishing lies in the hands of the anglers…

 

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