Risk perceptions and conservation ethics among recreational anglers

paper8Published online on 25. November 2015

Risk perceptions and conservation ethics among recreational anglers targeting threatened sharks in the subtropical Atlantic

Austin J. Gallagher, Steven J. Cooke, Neil Hammerschlag


Recreational fisheries management has traditionally been more concerned with quantifiable, catch-centric goals than angler-centric perceptions. However, the attitudes of fishers affect their behavior, which can alter the effort they make towards conservation actions, and ultimately, the outcome for exploited or threatened species. We conducted a quantitative human dimensions study into the drivers of conservation attitudes and perceptions of recreational fishers towards sharks. This was accomplished through a targeted online snowball survey on a sample of 158 recreational anglers in the state of Florida, a global hotspot for recreational fishing. Subjective knowledge of shark conservation issues was the most consistent driver for pro-shark conservation attitudes. Anglers ranked the great hammerhead and tiger shark as being the most threatened species, a result that is generally consistent with empirical data. Anglers did not identify species-specific differences in capture stress as an important factor in determining survivability, a result that somewhat contradicts available empirical data. In general, fishers were more supportive of management actions that would be the least restrictive to fishing, except in the case of highly threatened species. Anglers believed commercial fishing had the largest impact on shark populations, and recreational fishing the least, which is largely consistent with empirical information but could also reflect angler bias. Taken together, our findings suggest anglers generally care about shark conservation, but are unaware of some potential angling threats to sharks and possible conservation solutions. Further, anglers who consider themselves knowledgeable about shark conservation will be more sympathetic to shark management and more likely to adopt fishing practices that reduce shark mortality and sub-lethal impacts.

Endangered Species Research Vol. 29: 81–93, doi: 10.3354/esr00704



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