Fisheries Research Articles

More for less: Citizen science supporting the management of small-scale recreational fisheries

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Regional Studies in Marine Science




Catch rate, Drop net, Egg production index, Logbook, Recreational angler program, Volunteer angler


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


While many global fisheries rely on commercial catch and effort statistics to inform stock assessments and management, alternative approaches are required for small-scale recreational fisheries. In this study, a citizen science program was implemented to collect recreational catch and effort and fishery-independent data using three Western Australian blue swimmer crab (Portunus armatus) fisheries as case studies. Between 2013 and 2019, an opt-in Research Angler Program (RAP) was supported by 102 diarists submitting data from 1,705 fishing events, with direct and regular contact proving important for maintaining participation. Representing the only current recreational crabbing information for the three fisheries, the RAP data proved valuable in assessing management options (e.g. increases in size limits, bag limit reductions, seasonal closures) during a recent review of the Western Australian P. armatus resource. Two follow-up surveys to canvass diarist attitudes towards the program identified a desire to contribute to research and management, and concerns about fish stocks, as key motivations for involvement. In addition, 26 diarists assisted with fishery-independent breeding stock surveys (FIS) to collect valuable stock assessment data. The RAP and FIS proved complementary, as the first provided useful spatial/temporal coverage of catch rates and catch composition, while the second gave a targeted assessment of breeding stock abundance. We demonstrate how the data can generate annual fishery performance indices, such as standardised recreational catch rates and a fishery-independent egg production index, to support a potential harvest strategy. This study highlights a cost-effective and highly valuable citizen science approach to obtain key information for the assessment and management of small scale recreational fisheries, with suggested recommendations for researchers considering a similar approach elsewhere.



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