Fisheries Research Articles

Initial insights on the impact of COVID-19 on boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Marine Policy


Print: 0308-597X Electronic: 1872-9460


recreational fishing, fisheries-dependent data, remote camera monitoring


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


The COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent implementation of measures to reduce contact within the community have affected fisheries worldwide, yet few studies have reported the impacts on recreational fisheries. This study investigates boat-based recreational fishing in Western Australia from March to August 2020, where COVID-19 measures relevant to recreational fishers included various travel restrictions, and social and physical distancing measures. Information from surveys of licensed recreational fishers and fisheries compliance officers, and camera footage from key boat ramps is presented. A lower proportion of Perth metropolitan fishers went fishing compared with regional fishers. Metropolitan fishers also reported fewer days fished and lower participation in demersal and shore-based line fishing than regional fishers. In contrast, compliance officers observed more fishing activity in both metropolitan and regional locations. Fishing plans were mostly affected by travel restrictions with more metropolitan fishers affected compared with regional fishers. Daily recreational vessel retrievals at key boat ramps varied between locations, with metropolitan fishers initially unable to travel to regional centres. There was no decline in vessel retrievals at metropolitan boat ramps during the most rigid restrictions and northern regional boat ramps experienced substantial increases in recreational vessel activity once travel restrictions eased. Studies of this kind highlight the value of utilising established recreational fishing monitoring programmes to provide a responsive and scientific basis for policymakers to address societal behavioural changes associated with atypical events such as COVID-19.