Spatial substitution strategies of recreational fishers in response to zoning changes in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Understanding fishers’ responses to marine spatial closures is important for both resource users and managers. Fishing is a major recreational activity in Australia, and recreational fishers are key local resource users within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In 2004, implementation of a new zoning plan in the park resulted in a reduction in the amount of area available to recreational fishing. A combination of phone, mail, and face-to-face surveys was used to investigate recreational fishers’ choices and spatial redistribution strategies in response to the reduction in fishing area. Approximately 56% of fishers reported losing at least one of their regular fishing locations under the new zoning plan. Fishers generally compensated by shifting their fishing effort to other areas they knew to be good fishing locations, and by finding new areas that they had not exploited previously. Potential implications of these spatial changes in recreational fishing effort for both the marine park and recreational fishers include changes in fishing frequency and satisfaction, reduced fishing quality, restricted access to areas considered to be of high quality for recreational fishing, increased crowding in areas that remain open to fishing, and increased likelihood of localized depletions in popular recreational fishing locations. Identification of the drivers of the spatial distribution of fishing effort, factors affecting fishers’ choices of locations, and adaptation strategies adopted by fishers provide a valuable tool to help understand the impact of spatial fishing closures on fishers and resources.