A crucial ingredient for any effective public policy in natural resource management is a strong information base, and a comprehensive understanding of how people use and value their natural environments. Understanding the social and economic contribution of industries such as recreational fishing is a vital step to assessing different investment options, understanding communities, and supporting their long-term sustainability.
This is particularly important in areas where there are a range of values for the natural environment – such as the Snowy Monaro Region, where the local environment supports tourism, communities, environmental values, and energy generation through the Snowy Hydro scheme. Recreational fishing has traditionally played an important role as one of the region’s key tourism attractions and contributes to the local economy. However, anecdotal reports that the quality of fishing has declined and participation rates have fallen over recent years have caused concern about the future of the industry.
To understand current conditions and inform future management actions, Aither was engaged by the Snowy Monaro Regional Council to undertake an economic assessment of recreational fishing in the region, as well as an analysis of trends and drivers affecting the sector. A key part of this was an economic valuation of the regional fishing industry, including an analysis of various options that the Snowy Monaro Regional Council could undertake to assist the recreational fishing industry.
As part of this work, Aither consultant Matthew Lord spent five days in the region, interviewing stakeholders and undertaking surveys of recreational fishers to understand their fishing behaviours and their perceptions of the current state of fishing in the Snowy Monaro. Aither also developed an online survey which was published on the Council’s website and Facebook page and received over 400 responses.
Based on the results of these surveys and data provided by DPI fisheries, Aither estimated that fishing currently provides $12.2 million in benefits to local businesses per year, mainly accumulating to local businesses through expenditure associated with fishing trips. Recreational fishing also generated between $2.5 and $4.8 million of recreational benefits annually to both local and visiting fishers. Developing rigorous estimates for recreational benefits can be challenging – recognising this, Aither used two quite different non-market valuation techniques to estimate a range of potential recreational benefits.
Aither also used survey data to show the extent to which different management options would increase visitation – this analysis indicated that the most effective options were those that targeted the actual quality of the fishing, rather than options that sought to improve access, infrastructure, or local amenities, which all resulted in more modest benefits.
Ultimately, this analysis provides Snowy Monaro Regional Council with a better understanding of the value of recreational fishing in the region, and how potential actions or changes might be more or less beneficial to improving the recreational fishing experience and increasing visitation.
Aither enjoyed the collaboration with the Snowy Monaro Regional Council and is also thankful to the organisations that provided support for the project, which amongst others included NSW Department of Primary Industries. The final report can be accessed below.