Review of self-reporting tools for recreational fishers


Hartill, B., & Thompson, F. (2016). Review of self-reporting tools for recreational fishers. New Zealand Fisheries Assessment Report 2016/06. 35 p. Retrieved from


Most of the data used to inform fisheries management has been derived from either quantitative surveys or from statutory catch effort returns that all commercial fishers are required to submit. Recreational fishers offer another potential source of information, and while many record or self-report aspects of their fishing activity, there is no compulsion to do so.

This report provides a review of existing and developing tools and approaches that recreational fishers can and do use to self-report their fishing activity and catch. Existing, developing and potential reporting tools that are reviewed include: a competition creel survey conducted by the Hawke’s Bay Sport Fishing Club, competition records provided by the Pania Surf Casting Club, club and interclub competition weigh in records, a billfish logbook scheme, the New Zealand Cooperative Gamefish Tagging programme, the West Australian Research Angler Programme, Australia’s Range Extension database and Mapping project, smartphone apps, the use of fishfinders and GPS plotters as electronic hubs, smart watches, and commercial competition data. Although this review is not exhaustive, it covers a diverse range of initiatives and technologies that recreational fishers have used to record information. We have highlighted issues that should be considered if such data are to be used by fisheries managers. We note that some of the data sources we review have already been used by fisheries management, specifically in relation to gamefish fisheries. Others data sources have the potential to provide useful information if relatively simple changes are made to current methods.

Current and future recreational self-reporting tools can take a wide variety of forms depending on: the purpose for which data are collected; the support and resourcing available to support any initiative; and the technology used to collect and store any data that is provided.

The development of a general approach to evaluating the diverse range of existing self-reporting tools considered here (and those that may emerge in the future) is problematic. Universally applicable prescriptive protocols are likely to lack sufficient specificity in all contexts and two alternative evaluation approaches are proposed. The first of these is a checklist of Critical Success Factors that can be used to evaluate the extent to which the self-reported information provides key and relevant information. An alternative and perhaps more rigorous evaluation procedure that we recommend is to directly compare self-reported data with that collected concurrently and independently by traditional and accepted scientific onsite survey methods.

Two comparative test scenarios are described here. The first of these is a direct comparison of catch per trip data currently collected by a fishing club in Hawke’s Bay with that provided by a creel survey currently conducted by NIWA at the same club boat ramp. The second scenario describes a design driven approach, whereby club members and researchers jointly design a self-reporting tool which is used over the following year, alongside a creel survey conducted by an experienced research provider at the same club ramp.

We recommend that any data that are self-reported by fishers should be provided in an electronic format accessible via a standardised Application Programming Interface (API), such as that developed and described in this report. The development of a recreational catch API can assist in the solution of two goals: improving the quality of data collected by non-government programmes so that it is more useful for scientific purposes, and facilitating an engagement strategy allowing MPI to support community based recreational fishing groups. A prototype API has therefore been developed as part of this programme.