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Beyond biology: social dimensions of Blue Swimmer Crab fishing, restocking and other management options

Poulton, Sarah Jean (2018) Beyond biology: social dimensions of Blue Swimmer Crab fishing, restocking and other management options. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Traditionally, fisheries managers have based regulatory decisions on biological and economic data, while the social dimensions have received less attention. However, information on fishers’ motivations, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of management regulations can help facilitate support for fisheries management that will ensure the sustainability of the fishery, whilst supporting the future generations of fishers. The first component of this thesis (Chapter 2) details existing knowledge on the social dimension within the recreational and commercial fishery sectors, the importance of their involvement within fishery management programs and the social values that are associated with restocking. It demonstrates that to ensure effective management, fishers need to be involved in the implementation process of management schemes. This will consequently lead to a greater understanding of the approach and in turn, greater compliance.

The second component of this thesis (Chapter 3) sought to determine the social dimensions of recreational Blue Swimmer Crab (Portunus armatus) fishers using the Peel-Harvey Estuary. Two sequential data collection methods were employed; initial face-to-face interviews and a subsequent online survey to identify the primary motivations of fishers, their perceptions towards management and their beliefs and attitudes towards restocking. The face-to-face interviews were completed until no new responses were recorded which, in this case, occurred after 41 interviews. From the online survey, a total of 236 Peel-Harvey fishers accessed and completed (either partially or fully) the questionnaire. The data indicates that fishers are primarily motivated to ‘catch enough crabs to eat’ and to ‘catch big crabs’, which may be explained by the low skill level required to catch crabs, the low cost of equipment and delicacy of the meat. Fishers thought that the fishery needs to be better managed and support current fishery regulations, e.g. minimum size limits and seasonal closures. While potential regulations, e.g. closed fishing zones and maximum size limits were considered unacceptable, fishers wanted a longer closed season and more enforcement officers and community education. The familiarity of current regulations explains their greater social acceptance and thus, rather than implementing new regulations, stricter control on current measures should be enforced if they are to be needed. Fishers believe a restocking program will be beneficial, as it is consistent with their fishers’ preference for a larger abundances and sizes of fish and a greater chance of a catch.

The results of this thesis emphasise the importance of communicating with the fishing community when designing and implementing management regimes, and how the willingness of fishers to comply with regulations influences the success of management. Understanding the social dimensions of Blue Swimmer Crab fishers will improve the decision-making abilities of fishery and environmental managers, enabling them to manage both the ‘fish’ and the ‘fisher’ to ensure a biologically and socially sustainable fishery.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
United Nations SDGs: Goal 14: Life Below Water
Supervisor(s): Hughes, Michael and Tweedley, James
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