Tapping into fishers' motivations

Insight into what motivates recreational fishers across the nation is expected to help improve both the experience and fisheries management into the future

By Tiffany Paczek


Photo of young girl fishing Fishers of all ages are needed for the new national survey.
Photo: Matt Daniel, ABARES


It has been 18 years since the last national survey of recreational fishers was undertaken – so long ago that the phone diary system used to source survey participants in the original 2001 survey is no longer an effective way of collecting information.

But fewer and fewer people have landlines, or have their numbers listed in any kind of phone directory, says Josh Fielding, FRDC’s senior portfolio manager, who manages the recreational fishing research program. For this kind of survey, he says, online participation is the new alternative.

The 2019 survey, launched in April, is seeking information about who fishes, why they fish, and their total expenditure on recreational fishing, including how much they spend in regional communities.

The previous survey focused more on how many and what kinds of fish were caught, but this kind of catch and effort data is now regularly collected by the state and territory agencies that manage recreational fisheries.

“Instead, at a national scale, we’re hoping to get estimates of how many people are recreationally fishing and some of the demographics around them – gender, ages and so on, and how often they might participate,” Josh Fielding says.

“We hope the survey will also provide some understanding of how recreational fishing fits in as an activity for Australians, including in relation to other recreational pursuits. For example, do people specifically go holidaying to recreationally fish, or do they recreationally fish opportunistically while they’re on holiday?”

To implement the survey, the FRDC is working with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics (ABARES) and the University of Canberra.

ABARES researcher Andy Moore is leading the project and says the survey will also collect detailed economic information, such as how much money people spend in the act of going fishing. This could identify whether the activity provides a flow of money into regional Australia, information that could support regional tourism activities and infrastructure developments.

The 2019 study will use online techniques including social media to identify relevant population groups to take part in the survey. Participation will be through a voluntary registration process, and the survey will run over 12 months.

However, online surveys bring with them their own unique set of challenges, Andy Moore says – namely collecting a sample of participants that accurately represents the Australian population. He says when surveys are based on voluntary participation, those who are most eager to have input are typically ‘avid anglers’. “The people who fish one to five days a year often don’t feel like they have much to contribute – they don’t fish much, they don’t spend much, so therefore they believe their data isn’t significant. But, of course, they make up the majority [of fishers], so their data really matters.

“We’ve been looking at how to sample across Australian populations and make sure we get lots of [one to five-day per year fishers] as well as the avid anglers. We need to have a good statistical representative sample of the population, and that can be quite difficult with internet surveys,” Andy Moore says.

To overcome the risk of inaccurate data, the survey will ask questions to estimate some of the biases, which might help to screen participants to ensure a representative sample.

“What I’ve tried to do in this survey is design something that overcomes those problems and is statistically representative and cost effective,” Andy Moore says. Using online surveys is also a cheaper process for researchers. Getting the sample method right will allow similar surveys to be rolled out more easily in future.

“If you can do it every few years you can get long-term trends in the data, and that’s where the real beauty of this particular data is – what people are doing and how they’re changing.”

Click here to participate in the survey. The main survey will remain open for 12 months. Participants can also opt to take part in a voluntary 12-month fishing diary survey, via the website.

FRDC Research Code: 2018-161

More information

Andy Moore
(02) 6272 3090