Integrating a spatial model and decision theory towards optimal boating density and carrying capacity in a recreational fishery
The sustainable management of flats fishing requires establishing limits on the number of boats as its demand continues to grow. This study integrated different techniques to determine the carrying capacity in a recreational fishery: optimum boating density, visual fish census, geographic information system, fishing guides interviews and decision theory. The optimum boating density was based on the effective fishing area (EFA) and on the optimum density. The EFA represented 36% of the bay and was calculated from 53 fishing trips tracked with GPS data loggers. The data were analyzed in a geographic information system that incorporated the effect of the winds on the fish behavior. The maximum number of boats was calculated under four scenarios: northern winds, eastern winds, south-eastern winds and calm winds. The optimum density (average = 1.2 Km2, SD = 0.5) was obtained from anglers' statements. The decision theory results showed that the maximum number of boats under wind variability could be up to 89 boats in the fishery.