How much fish we have left for future generations has a lot to do with how we fish today. John Post is researching new ways to sustain fish populations and provide the best possible experience for recreational fishers.
“My approach is similar to what a demographer or an actuary would use with human data but instead I’m looking at the growth and survival of fish,” says Post, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, who is collecting data from lakes in southern and central British Columbia.
Post’s work is unique because his research team includes social scientists who study the behaviour of recreational fishers—where they go, what they are willing to spend to access fishing, how much they catch and what effort they put into it.
“We’re trying to put the biology and human halves together to come up with a more complete picture of sustainability,” he says.
Post is experimenting with different models of access. In Canada, where about $7.5 billion is spent in fresh water recreational fishing a year, fishers are allowed to catch one to five fish a day. But there is no limit on how many people can catch these fish every day. And areas near major centres are often over-harvested because people prefer to fish close to home.
In Europe, most lakes are owned privately or by clubs that buy access to the water body. “These groups have much more control so they can better balance the amount of harvest with the biological production,” he says.
Solutions studied by Post include not allowing people to fish in certain lakes to help the lake repopulate and even blocking access roads to certain areas. There’s also the option of managing fishing like big game hunts, through a lottery. Fishing for Walleye in Alberta in some lakes, for example, is managed in such a fashion.
Post, a recreational fisher, says there is some opposition to these ideas. “North Americans think of these resources as a common property resource. But we are forced to make difficult decisions to maintain resources for the long term rather than for the short term.”