Assessing Fishers' Support of Striped Bass Management Strategies
Incorporating the perspectives and insights of stakeholders is an essential component of ecosystem-based fisheries management, such that policy strategies should account for the diverse interests of various groups of anglers to enhance their efficacy. Here we assessed fishing stakeholders’ perceptions on the management of Atlantic striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and receptiveness to potential future regulations using an online survey of recreational and commercial fishers in Massachusetts and Connecticut (USA). Our results indicate that most fishers harbored adequate to positive perceptions of current striped bass management policies when asked to grade their state’s management regime. Yet, subtle differences in perceptions existed between recreational and commercial fishers, as well as across individuals with differing levels of fishing experience, resource dependency, and tournament participation. Recreational fishers in both states were generally supportive or neutral towards potential management actions including slot limits (71%) and mandated circle hooks to reduce mortality of released fish (74%), but less supportive of reduced recreational bag limits (51%). Although commercial anglers were typically less supportive of management changes than their recreational counterparts, the majority were still supportive of slot limits (54%) and mandated use of circle hooks (56%). Our study suggests that both recreational and commercial fishers are generally supportive of additional management strategies aimed at sustaining healthy striped bass populations and agree on a variety of strategies. However, both stakeholder groups were less supportive of harvest reductions, which is the most direct measure of reducing mortality available to fisheries managers. By revealing factors that influence stakeholders’ support or willingness to comply with management strategies, studies such as ours can help managers identify potential stakeholder support for or conflicts that may result from regulation changes.