When push comes to shove in recreational fishing compliance, think ‘nudge’
Enforcing compliance with rules and regulations in recreational fisheries has proved difficult due to factors such as the high number of participants and costs of enforcement, the absence of regular monitoring of recreational fishing activity, and the inherent difficulties in accurately determining catch levels. The effectiveness of traditional punitive deterrence is limited, yet current management is heavily reliant on this compliance approach. In this paper, the potential of behavioural based management is considered through a narrative review of the relevant literature; specifically, exploring the use of nudges, which aim through subtle changes and indirect suggestion to make certain decisions more salient, thereby improving voluntary compliance. This concept is explored with specific reference to the compliance of fishers within Australian recreational fisheries. There are only a few examples of behavioural based approaches found. However, based on their theoretical foundations, nudges may represent an inexpensive, and potentially highly effective tool for recreational fisheries management. Nudges do not offer a ‘quick fix’ to cases where traditional policy instruments have failed. Rather, there is the potential for behavioural nudges (based on framing, changing the physical environment, presenting default options, and social norms) to augment and complement existing deterrence regimes. A number of potential nudges for compliance management in recreational fisheries are suggested, but caution is advised. As with any novel management approach, nudges must be rigorously tested to demonstrate their cost-effectiveness and to avoid unintended consequences.