"Science That Keeps You Hooked" Angler Engagement
Angler engagement is a major goal of the Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation, located at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. As the first ever research center dedicated to recreational fisheries science, the CSSC has quickly become a nationally recognized leader in providing key science-based information that supports sustainable management of the multibillion-dollar recreational fishery that flourishes along the Gulf Coast. Given the need for angler involvement and outreach efforts that effectively communicate best release practices and current fisheries problems to facilitate angler buy-in of science and management, the overall goal of this proposed work is to undertake a transformational engagement initiative that coalesces the best recreational fisheries science and provides this information to anglers in ways that will advance their role as leaders in fisheries conservation. The proposed project will teach anglers to be wise stewards of marine sportfish resources in Texas and beyond through expansion of the CSSC’s successful angler-oriented initiatives such as ReleaSense and citizen science programs such as the sportfish tagging initiative. The rationale for the proposed engagement initiative is that once anglers are meaningfully engaged with current fisheries problems, provided with science-based solutions, and buy-in, they will be wise stewards of Texas’ marine fisheries resources. The specific objectives of the proposed project are to:
- Expand the CSSC’s successful catch and release initiative, ReleaSense, by developing an ambassador program comprising top recreational fishing leaders in Texas and providing updated media content to promote the best angling practices grounded in sound science.
- Grow CSSC sportfish tagging initiatives and citizen science programs allowing anglers to directly participate in the scientific process.
- Engage unprecedented numbers of anglers through instructional media and an intensive social media campaign with key partners.
This project has direct and broad application to the conservation of marine fisheries. Specifically, this project will empower anglers as wise stewards of sportfish resources while encouraging participation in science and promoting knowledge transfer to the recreational angling community. The initial feedback for ReleaSense indicated that the angling community was enthusiastic for these types of initiatives that help conserve fisheries resources but also provide anglers with new meaningful experiences. While most anglers have a strong conservation ethic, they often lack the knowledge of best conservation practices they can personally implement as calls to action. Furthermore, recreational anglers have traditionally had limited to no involvement in the scientific or management process – often resulting in skepticism or distrust of management. To bridge this divide and ensure that the knowledge and instructional content reach the broadest possible audience, this project includes an engagement/education/extension strategy designed to ensure the fishing community, resource managers, and all interested stakeholders are informed and updated regularly throughout the project. As the largest user group of marine fisheries, the adoption of the catch and release practices shared during this project by the recreational angling community will help promote healthy and sustainable sportfish populations, ensuring long-term robust recreational fisheries. The information shared through the content developed by this project will be widely applicable to anglers fishing in Texas, but also to anglers throughout the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. As such, coastal communities will reap economic and social benefits from this project.