How Recreational Fishing Videos are Aiding Management Efforts

By Nina Colagiovanni, SRC intern

As technology advances in today’s world, scientists are becoming more aware of the benefits of data gathered from platforms like YouTube. Research conducted by Sbragaglia et al. collected YouTube videos relating to recreational fishing of four species of grouper: dusky (Epinephelus marginatus), white (Epinephelus aeneus), goldblotch (Epinephelus costae) and dogtooth (Epinephelus caninus). Recreational fishing refers to any fishing activity that is not done for commercial purposes (Giovos et al., 2018).

Figure 1:  mA Fishing Rod and Reel Set Up [Wynand van Poortvliet via Unsplash]

This research was carried out in Italy between the years of 2011 and 2017 in order to understand the ecological patterns of groupers in the Mediterranean Sea and to demonstrate how data can aid in conservation science (Sbragaglia et al., 2020). Data was obtained from anglers and spearfishers who had uploaded videos of their catches publicly. 

Prior research examined recreational fishing videos of common dentex (Dentex dentex) which is an important species in the Mediterranean, and it was found that there was greater support as well as a greater mass of fish caught in angling videos versus spearfishing videos (Sbragaglia et al., 2019). 

This research focused on groupers which are currently listed under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Their hypothesis included that larger target species will search for protection from fishers in deeper waters, known as the “depth refuge” hypothesis (Sbragaglia et al., 2020). Additionally, they wanted to examine whether there was a northward expansion in the white grouper.

Figure 2: Number of Annual Videos Related to Recreational Fishing of Groupers [Sbragaglia et al. 2020]

A total of 2097 videos were identified over the years, with 1714 (82%) relating to spearfishing and 383 (18%) relating to angling (Sbragaglia et al., 2020). The videos were reported in regard to fishing method, which marked angling with red triangles and spearfishing with blue circles, as shown in Figure 2 (Sbragaglia et al., 2020). It can be seen that the trends differed depending on the species. For instance, the dusky, white and goldblotch groupers had more videos relating to spearfishing, while the dogtooth did not. This is due to the fact that dogtooth groupers inhabit deeper water where it is more difficult to spearfish.

In comparison to the common dentex, spearfishing videos were more representative in grouper species. This could infer that more spearfishing videos are being uploaded to YouTube or that spearfishing is a more popular method for grouper catches.

Figure 3: A Dusky Grouper [Pascal van de Vendel via Unsplash]

Overall, their results found that body mass and depth in angling videos were greater than in spearfishing videos for both the dusky and white groupers, and that there was a northward expansion of the white grouper (Sbragaglia et al., 2020). This supported their initial hypothesis, indicating that there were shifts in grouper distribution.

This research not only provides insights into the ecological patterns of groupers, but also displays how digital data gathered from platforms like YouTube can be utilized for research purposes and can contribute to management of marine species like the grouper or the common dentex in the future. 


Works cited

Giovos, I., Keramidas, I., Antoniou, C., Deidun, A., Font, T., Kleitou, P., . . . Moutopoulos, D. (2018, June 28). Identifying recreational fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea through social media. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from

Sbragaglia, V., Correia, R., Coco, S., & Arlinghaus, R. (2019, June 14). Data mining on YouTube reveals fisher Group-specific Harvesting patterns and social engagement in recreational anglers and spearfishers. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from

Sbragaglia, V., Coco, S., Correia, R., Coll, M., & Arlinghaus, R. (2020, October 04). Analyzing publicly available videos about recreational fishing reveals Key ecological and social insights: A case study ABOUT groupers in the Mediterranean Sea. Retrieved March 10, 2021, from

Nudging’ As a Strategy to Instigate Recreational Fishing Compliance

By: Casey Dresbach, SRC Intern

At a primal level, individuals do not generally enjoy being told what to do or how to act. A toddler would much rather prefer to act freely as opposed to being restricted to regimented rules. In a study done by Yulia Starostina, the emotional well-being of preschoolers was examined under strict parenting measures; “forcing” children to learn certain subjects that he/she did not independently express interest in (Starostina, 2013). The results showed an “emotional ill-being” and a strong correlation of mothers’ forcing the development of their children and their educational pathways with their children’s anxiety. The induced anxiety within the population of children studied is surveyed as an indicator to preference of enforcement.

Fishing has served as both a recreational and commercial enterprise for hundreds of years. It provides socio-economic welfare, health benefits, and contributes considerable amounts of protein to communities worldwide. The global estimation of recreational fishing participation is an estimated number of fishers ranging from 220 million to 700 million (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018). However studies have shown enforcing compliance within recreational fishing is not an easy feat. Fishers naturally work within their own self-interests and such measures are not always taken in favor of the environment. Current strategies to get recreational fishers to act sustainably favor rules and regulations. Yet low levels of adherence to such restrictions set by authorities can directly impact the environment, the resources, and the several species of marine organisms that are extracted daily.

In a piece of literature written by British ecologist Garrett Hardin brought to light, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” (Hardin, 1968). The ocean and its resources combined are characterized as the commons. Such natural resources are described as the commons because generally speaking anyone can extract certain species and failure to comply is often common as well.

In a recent study (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018), the compliance approach is discussed and scrutinized as the traditional means to fisheries management. Fisheries management in Australia was used as a study area to analyze behavioral insights as a means to target non-compliance of fishers. Traditional enforcement tells recreational fishers what they can and cannot do versus given choices as to what they could possibly do. This study examined the compliance approach within the realm of fisheries management and how as a stand alone mechanism might be vulnerable to nonfulfillment. Difficulty to ensure obedience with this mechanism is characterized by the high number of participants and costs of enforcement, the absence of continual monitoring of fishing activity, and the complications in accurately determining catch levels (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018). The effectiveness of this traditional method is limited, yet current management is heavily reliant on this compliance approach.

As an additional and perhaps a complementary method, the nudge theory is introduced. “If deterrence relies on ‘shoving’ people to make certain decisions (such as complying with rules), a ‘nudge’ can be thought of as a more subtle way to encourage a decision that is in people’s best interest.” (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018). Such examples may include but are not limited to how options are presented to people, the tone and language in which it is presented Framing, changes to physical environments, changes to default policy, and the use of social policy and social norms are all entities of potential nudges in recreational fisheries.

Framing is a common tactic used in several arenas. One common example would be in healthcare. “90% of people survive post surgery,” versus “10% die post surgery.” To the patient, the latter does not sound as approachable or appealing as the first. At a cattle and camping station in Western Australia that catch limit is stated to be “no more than 2 fish per day to ensure the sustainability of the wonderful resource. We have a possession limit of 5kg. Catch a fish each day, no need to freeze, there is no comparison to the taste.” (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018). The message is framed using descriptive versus punitive wording (i.e. the use of the adjective, “wonderful”). 2 fish per day is also lower than the 5kg limit, hence encouraging participants to utilize the lower bag limit as a reference point. (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Ruler to measure fish size using interactive language markers to encourage fishers to comply with size limits. (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018)

The article discusses the idea that individuals will do the “right thing” if they feel they are being watched. Changes to the physical environment such as displaying some similar watching-eye initiatives such as a message along with a picture of eyes encouraging fishers to report any instances of non-compliance. Both framing and changes to the environment are discernable and patent to users, making the message hard to avoid.

Figure 2. Using both framing and changes to the physical environment as measures to encourage compliance among fishers. (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018)

Large-scale initiatives have been put in place through green energy policies, specifically with Tasmanian fishing licensing giving the user the choice to opt in for digital licenses. By digitizing the licensing market, the renewal process would be automatic and potentially reduce the number of cases where fishers do not have a license to fish. By reducing printing costs too, money can be allocated elsewhere making more resources available for other purposes. There are also gray areas or gaps in the system where language or framing can be incorporated. I.e. “if you renew this way, then you sign an agreement to comply with no go areas,” while still offering the possibility to opt out. This would not serve as a forced mechanism, rather an encouraged, giving the user a choice in the matter while making one more environmentally attractive than the other.

Individuals also tend to do or act in ways others do via mimicry. According to the study, social norms and normative messaging with respect to compliance behavior seem to have a positive correlation. The presence of social norms in social media has not only elicited recognition of non-compliance but also an emotional upset among the fishing community. When one instance of non-compliance was shared on Facebook, an argument was circulated through commenting and sharing the post. This feedback can be used by fisheries departments to show the depict a social norm, disapproval of noncompliance.

Figure 3. Summary of potential nudges to be used in fisheries management: simplification/framing, changes to physical environment, Changes to default policy, and social norms and comparison. (Mackay, S., Putten, Sibly, & Yamazaki, 2018)

Interweaving nudges into fisheries management may be a potential to add dimensionality to the punitive enforcement mechanisms that are already in place. Framing, changes to the physical environment, presenting default options, and changes to social norms are nudges that may change the choice environment by making choices more desirable or attractive (See Figure 3). By targeting the overall behavior instead of the individual actions desired outcome of sustainable fishing is more likely. Changing the overall arena in which these actions (i.e. overfishing) are done in makes them less foreseeable. More research should be done looking into the effectiveness of nudge incorporation, as some might serve better in one community versus that of another. Incorporation of the nudge theory into what exists already, as they did in Australian fisheries management, might be a good place to start rather than making a complete shift to one versus the other.

Works Cited

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science Mag , 162 (3859), 1243-1248.

Leonard, T. C. (2008). Nudge. Retrieved from Princeton:

Mackay, M., S., J., Putten, E. v., Sibly, H., & Yamazaki, S. (2018). When push comes to shove in recreational fishing compliance, thing ‘nudge’. Retrieved from Science Direct:

Starostina, Y. (2013, October 10). Forcing Child Development: Implications for Emotional Well-being of a Preschooler. Retrieved from ScienceDirect:

Sunstein, R. C. (2014). Nudging: A Very Short Guide. Retrieved from DASH Harvard:

Discerning the culture of compliance through recreational fisher’s perceptions of poaching.

By Luisa Gil Diaz, SRC intern

In a vast and endless ocean where regulation and enforcement can be difficult, marine protected areas represent oases where vulnerable species can have a reprieve from over fishing and other human activities. Of course, these protected areas are also created for the enjoyment of people too. The ocean can provide any number of recreational pursuits from scuba diving to fishing. Marine protected areas provide an environment in which these activities can be carried out safely and under regulations that protect the priceless marine park. However, what happens when people start violating these regulations? Why do they even do it in the first place? How can they be stopped? These are questions that researchers Brock Bergseth and Matthew Roscher address in their paper: Discerning the culture of compliance through recreational fisher’s perceptions of poaching.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is one of the largest marine protected areas in the world.

In their paper, Bergseth and Roscher address poaching and compliance behaviors in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Poaching is a specific type of fishing that occurs when species are illegally taken from protected areas. Because it is an illegal activity, poaching is a difficult subject to study and gather data on, so instead, the researchers went for a more indirect approach. Bergseth and Roscher used an interdisciplinary approach based on a concept in psychology called the theory of planned behavior to investigate people’s attitudes towards poaching as well as to see what motivates poachers in the first place. The theory of planned behavior states that there are three factors that make a person likely or unlikely to do something: 1. The individual’s personal attitude towards the behavior, 2. Societal pressures or attitudes associated with the behavior, and 3. The difficulty of actually carrying out the behavior. Bergseth and Roscher aimed to see how recreational fishers scored on these factors when related to poaching and compliance to the park’s regulations. They also wanted to determine how two other social phenomenons: pluralistic ignorance and false consensus, played a role in people’s perceptions about poaching. Pluralistic ignorance refers to when people think others perform illegal or unhealthy behaviors more than they themselves do, and false consensus is when an individual thinks everyone else also performs the behavior they do. These phenomenons are dangerous because they reinforce and encourage the illegal behavior.

As shown above, line fishing is one of the most popular types of fishing on the reef, but is prohibited in certain areas.

To gather data, the researchers surveyed 682 recreational fishers in the city of Townsville. Townsville was chosen because it has a large recreational fisher population and is the largest urban center located near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. When approached, the participants were reassured that their responses were anonymous and for research purposes, not for law enforcement. To avoid any biased responses, words such as “illegal” or “poaching” were excluded.  The results from the study were interesting and encouraging. It was found that 9.7% of the fishers reported that they believed poaching occurred regularly. Interestingly, 13% of fishers reported personally knowing someone who poached, and their estimates for poaching were much higher.  Only 3% of participants admitted to poaching and they had the greatest estimate of non-compliance with the poaching rule. Most recreational fishers viewed poaching as personally and socially unacceptable, however, the small minority that is still poaching is creating a substantial impact on fish population. The data suggests that the phenomenon of pluralistic ignorance encourages individuals who are already poaching to continue poaching because they think more people than just them are doing it. It also suggests that individuals who personally know poachers are likely to become poachers themselves because they also share this view.

Townsville is off the coast of Queensland and is the largest urban center with direct access to the reef.

Important steps need to be taken to reduce poaching and stop new people from doing it. Recommended actions have included childhood education, outreach efforts, getting important community members to spread anti-poaching messages, and campaigns that highlight the marine park’s ability to catch and prosecute poachers. If these important steps are taken, not only will people be physically stopped from poaching, but over time, the misconceptions and attitudes that lead people to poach will be eradicated as well.

Works Cited

Bergseth, B. J., & Roscher, M. (2018). Discerning the culture of compliance through recreational fisher’s perceptions of poaching. Marine Policy.

Abrahamse, L. Steg, Social influence approaches to encourage resource conservation: a meta-analysis, Glob. Environ. Change 23 (2013) 1773–1785.

Suff, L. Deepsea.jpg. Digital image. N.p., 22 Aug. 2004. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.

NASA. GreatBarrierReef. Digital image. N.p., 26 Aug. 2000. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.

Townsville, Queensland. Digital image. N.p., 2016. Web. 6 Mar. 2018.

Can Recreational Fishing Exist in Urban Societies?

By Emily Rose Nelson, RJD student

Recreational fishing is defined as “fishing of aquatic animals that do not constitute the individual’s primary resource to meet basic nutritional needs are not generally sold or otherwise traded on markets,” or simply put, fishing for fun. Anywhere from 220 to 700 million people participate in recreational fishing worldwide. At least 118 million of those people are from the modern industrial world, residing in North America, Europe, and Oceania. A recent study in Fisheries Management and Ecology attempts to explain the inconsistencies in recreational fishing participation rates across industrialized countries. Arlinghaus et al. performed a literature search identifying numbers of recreational fishers in a given country or state to test five different hypothesis regarding recreational fishing rates in industrialized and post industrialized countries.

Recreational fishing is used as a sport and way to relax by people across the globe. (Wikimedia Commons)

Recreational fishing is used as a sport and way to relax by people across the globe. (Wikimedia Commons)

First, they showed that recreational fishing participation is positively related to the cultural importance (represented using total fish landings and per capita fish consumption) of fish in a given country. Countries that have long standing traditions of fishing as a primary food source or as a primary source of income through commercial operations place higher value on the activity. In these societies there is enhanced interest in fishing for recreation as time and resources become available. In addition, people are more likely to spend time fishing at a young age and pass the traditions onto their children. The overall culture of a society will form a general interest or lack of interest in fishing, however, culture is less important compared to other social factors in explaining recreational fishing participation.

Alringhaus et al. also showed that the availability of fishing opportunities is important in predicting the recreational fishing participation rates in a given country. Urban development has reduced the amount of unmodified land and water for activities like hunting and fishing. By changing the landscape, large portions of industrialized societies have been cut off from direct contact with nature and opportunities to participate in recreational fishing have declined. It is likely that younger generations in these areas will seek alternative activities in order to meet the same psychological needs that fishing would. By analyzing the relative surface area of freshwater, access to coastline, and number of recreational fishers it became clear that countries with higher water availability show higher recreational fishing rates. However, results were not significant and thus access to fishing opportunities has only minor influence on participation rates.


: In this image of Miami it is clear how the development of the city has limited access to the water. (Wikimedia Commons)

The third and fourth hypotheses were more strongly connected to the individual. The availability of resources in terms of time and money and perceived need for leisure of an individual were positively related to recreational fishing participation. The average age, average household size, and unemployment rate of a given society were used to represent availability of resources. Alringhaus et al. showed that increased age and increased financial constraints result in decreased recreational fishing participation. In societies where the average individual has ample physical, time, and financial resources recreational fishing rates are increased. In addition, individuals must have the interest and knowledge to partake in fishing in the first place. Using average weekly working hours as a proxy for an individual’s perceived need for leisure, the study showed that recreational fishing participation increases when people feel they need more time to relax. Fishing provides people with a temporary escape from the stress and commitments from every day life.

Of the multiple variables tested, the most important predictor of recreational fishing participation was urbanization. Population density and per capita gross domestic product were used to measure the urbanization and economy of a given society. Arlinghaus et al. showed that interest in recreational fishing initially rises with development but it then reaches a peak and starts to decline. Urbanization of a society involves a shift in overall values and opinions of wildlife and the environment. New values and norms are created that reduce the credence of fishing as a source of leisure and minimize the interest of the public in outdoor activities. The “videophilia hypothesis” argues that in developing societies nature based recreation is increasingly being pushed aside for electronic activities. As less active activities grow in popularity in urban societies recreational activities will be increasingly less active as well. Simply put, post- industrialization societies tend to have much lower recreational fishing participation rates.

Overall, it can be concluded that steady and increasing interest in recreational fishing will occur for societies in transition toward urbanization and economic development. However, in highly urbanized societies these rates are predicted to decrease. Management and marketing campaigns could be used to maintain fishing interest in years to come. In order for these efforts to be successful people must know where fishing opportunities exist, how to utilize these resources, and be able to do so at low costs. Without intervention urban societies will continue to participate in alternate leisure activities and lose connection with nature.

Arlinghaus, R., Tillner, R., & Bork, M. (2014). Explaining participation rates in recreational fishing across industrialized countries. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 22(1), 45-55