Meaningful action gives satisfaction: Stakeholder perspectives on participation in the management of marine recreational fisheries
Fisheries management is increasingly turning to participatory approaches as a way to improve stakeholder satisfaction with management institutions and policies, reduce conflicts, enhance compliance, and achieve various other benefits. However, how these efforts are perceived by participants and their impact on actual stakeholder attitudes is rarely evaluated. A quantitative survey was used to explore attitudes toward management and perceptions of participation opportunities in Florida's marine recreational fisheries management. Though most (89%) respondents agreed that public input should be included in decision-making, few agreed it is (19%) or that managers listen to public input (13%), and only 15% agreed there are opportunities for them to participate. Almost half (42%) were on average dissatisfied with management outcomes and processes. A significant correlation was found between respondent's perception that they could take meaningful action to influence management and their overall satisfaction with management (r = 0.58, p < 0.001). Stakeholders that had the highest and lowest scores for meaningful action differed in whether or not they perceived they had opportunities for participation and in their understanding of the management process. However, the strongest differences related to the perceived incorporation (or lack thereof) of stakeholder input into decision-making, and the quality of science behind decision-making. Overall this suggests that the perception that opportunities for participation are limited and not genuine is associated with overall dissatisfaction with marine recreational fisheries management. We recommend measures to increase awareness of participation opportunities and in particular, transparent and effective use of stakeholder input in decision-making in order to ensure that engagement opportunities are viewed as meaningful. This could increase satisfaction with management and strengthen wider benefits of participatory approaches.
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