Connections or conflict? A social and economic analysis of the interconnections between the professional fishing industry, recreational fishing and marine tourism in coastal communities in NSW, Australia
Resource conflict is a common feature of coastal management. This conflict is often managed by using spatial planning tools to segregate uses, with access decisions made through a comparison of the economic costs and benefits of the competing sectors. These comparisons rarely include an in-depth analysis of the extent or nature of the conflict. One commonly experienced form of resource conflict in coastal communities involves professional fishing, recreational fishing and broader coastal tourism. In New South Wales, Australia the professional fishing industry is often seen as being in conflict with recreational fishing and tourism, and there are frequent calls to close areas to professional fishing, arguing that this will provide improved economic benefits to local communities. This research examined the relationships between the three sectors using economic valuations, qualitative interviews and a large-scale representative questionnaire of the general public. The results revealed highly interconnected and mutually supportive relationships, with professional fishing providing a range of services that benefit both tourism and recreational fishing. These results suggest that spatial management exercises that seek to segregate or remove one sector from an area, may be counterproductive to the interests of all these groups. Relying on economic valuations of each sector as if they stand alone is insufficient to adequately understand their roles in local communities. Resource allocation decisions should be based on evaluations that consider the interconnections between sectors, and consider whether negotiated sharing of resources may provide greater community benefits than excluding certain groups of users.