National Survey of Recreational Fishing

VRFish will be at the forefront in encouraging Victorian recreational fishers to participate in a national survey of recreational fishing – the first since 2000-01.

Coordinated by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and the University of Canberra, this survey trials new methods which, if successful, will lead to national surveys being repeated at, perhaps, two-year intervals.

Funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), the National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishing is designed to collect information on fishers’ participation, demographics, expenditure, awareness and attitudes.  Recreational fishers of all ages, genders, social backgrounds and fishing activity levels are urged to participate.

The program’s key element is the on-line survey where all Australian recreational fishers will be encouraged to record their fishing activities, experiences, spending and other related details.

The only previous comprehensive national study of recreational fishing was the 2000-01 National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey.  That study involved collaboration by all states, territories and the Commonwealth Government and took years to plan, costing several million dollars.

As well as describing social and economic aspects of recreational fishing, that study reported recreational fish catches and related fishing activities in great detail. The survey method required participating fishers to complete detailed diaries of all their fishing-related activities over 12 months.  However, several factors have since prevented a repeat of the 2000-01 national survey. These include the high costs, the lack of agreement among all states, challenging biases inherent in on-line surveys, and the inadequacy of white pages as a basis for randomly sampling the population.

To address these concerns, in mid-2018, recreational fishing survey experts from around the country met in Adelaide to work on the outline of an approach finally put together by ABARES and the University of Canberra.  The key criteria for success are statistical robustness of results, cost-efficiency and repeatability.

With these criteria in mind, the survey announced by Senator Colbeck on 9 April is somewhat experimental in that its success depends heavily on how fishers respond and participate.  If successful, national surveys are likely to be repeated at regular intervals, perhaps two-yearly, each costing less than $1M.  This ‘longitudinal survey’ approach will enable trends in participation, expenditures, etc, and the success of fishery management and development programs to be tracked over time.

The biggest challenge will be to encourage infrequent fishers to get on-line and complete the survey.  Victorians who regard themselves as ‘occasional’ fishers are especially urged to participate.  In terms of improving their fishing opportunities and quality experiences, their needs may be quite different from those of frequent fishers and to fishers from other parts of the country.  So, it’s important that their needs and interests are properly identified; this can only happen if they complete the survey.

To that end the program is being promoted through all forms of media, with some of Australia’s leading fishing personalities being enlisted to help spread the message.

As Victoria’s recreational fishing peak body, VRFish, will work directly and through its affiliated clubs and associations to encourage fishers of all abilities and activity levels to complete the survey

Given the 20-year gap between national surveys, VRFish is keen to see this survey succeed as a basis for regularly repeated studies that can track the performance and development of recreational fishing in Victoria.

For this reason, VRFish is throwing its weight behind the national survey, particularly in targeting ‘occasional’ fishers, encouraging them to get on-line to complete the survey.  With a better understanding of what motivates occasional fishers and what hinders from fishing more often, VRFish will be able to develop programs to meet their particular needs.  This will blend perfectly with the Andrews Government’s goal “to get more people fishing more often“.

From October, details of the national on-line survey of recreational fishing will be promoted through various media, fishing organisations and fisheries agencies. Every Australian recreational fisher will be encouraged to complete the online survey.

From past experience, those who fish frequently are the most likely to respond quickly. They will be encouraged to urge their less avid fisher mates to get on line to make their own contributions. For the survey to truly represent a complete picture of recreational fishing at national, state and regional levels, it is vital that men, women and children of all backgrounds and fishing experiences engage in this stage of the survey.

A number of participants will then be invited to participate in a 12 month phone diary phase of the study, providing information on their fishing activities and related details.  It is expected that the data collection of the program will be completed by mid 2020.

The needs of Victoria’s occasional fishers may be quite different from those of frequent fishers, so it’s important that they complete the national survey to make their needs known.

To complete the survey head to

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