Attitudes and perceptions influence recreational angler support for shark conservation and fisheries sustainability
Despite the perilous status of many shark populations, rallying support for their conservation has been challenging, due in part to both long held negative perceptions and desire for shark fisheries. Recreational anglers are often advocates of conservation and can act as valuable partners with resource managers in developing fisheries management and conservation strategies. However, understanding their attitudes and perceptions, particularly towards resource status and management, is essential to developing successful management strategies and predicting outcomes. As a case study for assessing the complex challenges of sustainable shark fisheries, Florida recreational anglers were surveyed to understand how attitudes and perceptions influenced their willingness to donate for shark 1) conservation and protection or 2) fisheries sustainability. Overall, recreational angler willingness to donate was 25.5%, but attitudes and perceptions helped explain dramatic divides. For instance, willingness to donate was only 6% among the subset of anglers that perceived a growing large coastal shark population as a threat to recreational fishing opportunities. Highest support for shark conservation was shown by anglers who value seeing sharks in the wild (41.4%), and even more so among individuals who occasionally target sharks while fishing recreationally (65.8%). Pervasive among anglers unwilling to donate was a perception that shark populations were increasing, and thus not in need of further protection. These findings illustrate attitudes and perceptions that challenge shark conservation and fisheries management, as well as the critical importance of engaging anglers when developing strategies that rely on the recreational angling community for support.