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Understanding Recreational Fishers’ Compliance with No-take Zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

Adrian Arias, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University; School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University
Stephen G. Sutton, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, James Cook University; Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, James Cook University


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Understanding fishers’ compliance is essential for the successful management of marine protected areas. We used the random response technique (RRT) to assess recreational fishers’ compliance with no-take zones in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP). The RRT allowed the asking of a sensitive question, i.e., “Did you, knowingly, fish within in a Green Zone during the last 12 months?” while protecting respondents’ confidentiality. Application of the RRT through a survey of recreational fishers indicated that the majority of recreational fishers, 90%, comply with no-take zones. Likewise, most fishers, 92%, reported not personally knowing anyone who had intentionally fished in a no-take zone, indicating that fishers’ perceive high levels of compliance among their peers. Fishers were motivated to comply with no-take zones primarily by their beliefs about penalties for noncompliance, followed by beliefs about the fishery benefits of no-take zones. Results suggest that compliance-related communication efforts by the managing authority have partially succeeded in maintaining appropriate compliance levels and that future efforts should accentuate normative compliance drivers that will encourage voluntary compliance. We conclude that compliance monitoring should be integrated into the adaptive management of the GBRMP and other protected areas; in this case social surveys using the RRT are effective tools.

Key words

compliance; false consensus effect; Great Barrier Reef; illegal fishing; marine protected area; marine reserve; no-take zones; poaching; random response technique (RRT); recreational fishing

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087