Is catch-and-release shore angling compatible with the conservation goals of marine protected areas? A case study from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park in South Africa
Area management in the form of no-take marine protected areas (MPAs) has been criticised as a fisheries management tool because of its limited capacity to provide short-term benefits to local fisheries. This study used data from a long-term fish monitoring and tagging project to assess whether catch-and-release (C&R) shore angling could be compatible with the management objectives of a large, multiple-use, zoned MPA in South Africa. Tag-recapture rates, trends in relative abundance and mean size of target species, sub-lethal effects and other potential environmental impacts suggested that C&R research angling, using best practise fish handling techniques, did not have an overall negative impact on protected fish populations. While positive from a scientific monitoring perspective, more sensitive species did show evidence of increased post-release mortality that would be exacerbated by higher intensity C&R angling conducted by members of the angling public. It is thus concluded that C&R shore angling by members of the angling public is not compatible with MPAs zoned for no-take. However, because C&R angling does have substantially lower negative impacts compared to recreational harvest fisheries, areas zoned for C&R offer good potential as buffer areas adjacent to no-take areas or as stand-alone areas where fish conservation can be improved. This concept is proposed for the improved conservation of surf-zone angling fish species within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and further afield.
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