Human Dimensions (HD) research in recreational fisheries is predicated on the understanding that successful management depends on knowing what anglers want from their fishing experience. While researchers have long recognized that diversity exists among anglers in terms of attitudes and preferences, few comparative studies account for the role played by diverse fishing opportunities in fulfilling anglers’ goals. Instead, most studies focus either on fishing as a general activity or generalize from fishery-specific case studies. Consequently, HD research has faced criticism from fisheries ecologists and managers regarding its management relevance. Leveraging an initiative to develop comprehensive catch and harvest information in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (M-V) I collected additional angler information to explore HD constructs. I used recreation specialization as a framework for understanding angler heterogeneity while exploring how resource diversity affects preferred recreational outcomes. First, I examined the link between motivations and behavior, demonstrating that the relative importance of catch and non-catch outcomes depends on target species, and that angler specialization and motivations are related. Second, I used random utility theory to test how well different measures of specialization explain preference heterogeneity observed after accounting for target species, finding centrality-to-lifestyle to be the best predictor. Third, I examined the influence of centrality-to-lifestyle and target species on the importance of several catch and non-catch characteristics related to satisfaction-with-catch. While the model parameters suggested that more and larger fish are universally desired, the relative importance of these characteristics depended on both targeted species and specialization level. For my last study, I presented a case study of particular relevance to conservation of the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) fishery in M-V, by evaluating the effect of proposed regulatory changes on angling effort and harvest. Overall, and regardless of the specialization level, anglers were largely unresponsive to proposed legislation to partially close the fishery, suggesting more drastic measures may be required to meet ecological objectives. Together, these studies reinforce that researchers and practitioners should be wary of applying general insights of HD research to specific situations. Not only does the ‘average’ angler not exist, but neither does the ‘average’ fishing trip.
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Thesis advisor: Haider, Wolfgang
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