Angler groups are a diverse population. Their diversity can be identified on a complex continuum that spans multiple dimensions in accordance with environmental, legal, and social experiences associated with catch and non-catch related aspects of a fishing activity.
For example, an angler whom was introduced to the activity by peers will have a different take on fishing than an individual that was introduced by family. Age is a factor as well as where, when, and why.
The habitual nature of fishing can be described as catch or non-catch related aspects. For instance, an angler may enjoy the activity because they are skilled in catching many fish or due to the escape that they may gain from their regular routine away from the water.
Fisheries managers play a role in the experiences that anglers have in many ways however they are mainly concerned with the catch related aspects, those that involve fish. Knowledge of the growing diversity in angler groups’ dimensions allows for a more comprehensive approach to fisheries management that considers the full spectrum of the activity and not just the fish.
Fishing is a social activity that typically involves family and friends. The nature of and process of social group composition is important for understanding the particular meanings that individuals attribute to their fishing participation. The meanings attributed to fishing and the groups involved socially create the experiences sought (Ditton, 2004).
Recreational fishing is a popular leisure pursuit across the western world because of the various benefits provided to humans and its low overall cost. There are studies that indicate that fishing includes health benefits (physiological); psychological benefits, therapeutic benefits, learning benefits, sociological benefits and environmental benefits (Ditton, 1998).
A human dimensions focus begins with an understanding of public attitudes toward resources (Ditton, 2004). Human dimensions of fisheries management are about identifying what people think and do regarding fishery resources, and understanding why. It is “an area of investigation which attempts to describe, predict, understand, and affect human thought and action toward natural environments” (Manfredo et al. 1996). The two major human dimensions components in fisheries are research and application (Ditton, 2004).
All types of decision-making impact on people’s emotions. It is important to understand anglers’ attitudes and opinions in management decision making for several reasons: this is their reality, whilst there is often a lack of positive relationship between attitude and behavior, the former is still the best indicator available of the latter, anglers may be educated to new understanding but they are not likely to be forced to accept actions that are against their wishes, fishery managers in most countries have probably learned that new management policies, no matter how scientifically sound will be likely to be rejected and fail if not in accord with the fundamental views held by the angling publics (Vanderpool 1986; Matlock et al. 1988).
Human dimensions research that focuses on anglers’ attitudes or ‘emotions’ could be useful in answering some of the following questions:
-Is there opposition to the proposed regulations from the entire population, or is it representative of only a ‘noisy’ minority?
-What else is known about those who support or oppose the regulation?
-Can the management agency expect anglers to follow or oppose the regulation?
-Can the management agency expect anglers to follow or violate the regulations?
-Are some regulations more acceptable than others to the aggregate of anglers or particular segments? Are various combinations more or less palatable to a majority of anglers?
-How well known is the biological basis for this management decision amongst the public?
-What are the reasons behind the opposition to the proposed regulations?