North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 38(2):271-280, John Wiley and Sons Inc., 4, 2018. Paper abstract bibtex
Understanding the factors underlying fishers’ decisions to adopt resource‐conserving behaviors is important to successful fisheries management. This study used an online survey to explore factors motivating decisions to use alternative barotrauma mitigation measures (venting and descending) to improve discarded reef fish survival across recreational, charter, and commercial fishers in the state of Florida. A majority of respondents (66–69%) had experienced fish showing gross signs of barotrauma, and more than half of those (52–69%) reported using barotrauma mitigation most of the time when needed. Use of mitigation by other fishers was perceived to be lower (30–57%) and to have declined after removal of a venting tool requirement. Overall, respondents were more likely to have used venting tools (96–99%) than fish descenders (14–27%), and most respondents (81–86%) intended to use venting tools in the future. The theory of planned behavior was used to predict and explain intentions to use venting tools and/or fish descenders based on three variables: attitudes toward the method, subjective norms (i.e., social pressure), and perceived control (i.e., confidence in their ability to use the method). Fishers across sectors perceived venting tools and descenders to be similarly effective in improving released fish survival, but they felt that descenders were more time consuming, difficult to use, and expensive. Subjective norms and perceived control were stronger for venting tools than for descenders. Overall, subjective norms had the strongest influence on fishers’ intention to use either form of mitigation; attitudes and perceived control were also important in the case of descenders. Outreach efforts focusing on re‐enforcing subjective norms should have the greatest impact on increasing fishers’ use of barotrauma mitigation methods. Comparatively greater efforts are required to increase the use of descending gear than to increase the use of venting, and care should be taken to avoid strategies that could result in an overall decline of barotrauma mitigation.