Valuing a day’s fishing

Dr Randall Bess
Insights Newsletter
12 August, 2016

The easiest way to catch a fish is to visit the local New World store.

Commercial fishing can deliver seafood far more cost effectively than the average recreational fisher. Seafood available at New World typically costs a fraction of what it costs recreational fishers when considering the cost of a boat, trailer, gear, fuel, etc.

If the prospect of catching a fish or two yourself is the goal, it raises the question of the value placed on a day’s fishing.

The real value of a day’s fishing, for many fishers, is the enjoyment the experience provides: the opportunity to apply one’s skills to the local conditions to get a fair day’s catch to share with family and friends, even if a trip to the local supermarket would be cheaper.

Fishers must get at least enough enjoyment from fishing to cover the extra costs of catching fish in the water instead of at the store. But, it is hard to put a number on the extra value of the fishing experience.

It’s little wonder that there’s so many fishing phrases like, ‘There’s more to life than fishing, but not much!’

Interestingly, overseas research shows that fewer people participate in fishing as population density increases, as well as median age and average household size.

But, if the continual increase in the number of recreational boats is any indication, New Zealand may well be an exception to the rule when it comes to increasing urbanisation.

In addition, any decline in the rate of participation in fishing should be offset by immigration in the tens of thousands each year.

So, one thing that can be anticipated is that as the population continues to increase, so will the demand for recreational fishing. When more and more people join in catching their own fish, sustaining the fishery for the future eventually becomes a concern. What comes with that is ever decreasing daily bag limits and shorter seasons.

It raises the question, what value will be placed on a day’s fishing in, say 20 or 40 years’ time, if fish are harder to find?

Ideally, we would know whether the value of the next fish caught was greater for recreational or commercial fishers. That aside, we need to figure out how to maintain the enjoyment the fishing experience provides for the future.

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