Public Preferences For Spotted Seatrout Management In Louisiana (Preliminary Report)
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Public Preferences For Spotted Seatrout Management In Louisiana (Preliminary Report)

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    A stock assessment of Spotted Seatrout conducted by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) in 2019 indicates that the species has been overfished in six of the past 10 years, is currently undergoing overfishing, and is in need of regulatory action to recover the stock from its current condition. In January 2020, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission directed LDWF to conduct a survey of coastal anglers to collect public input on management options for stock recovery. Information was obtained from 3,594 respondents using three methods: electronic polling at public meetings, an email survey distributed to a random sample of license-​holders, and an open-access web survey.  A review of results across the three modes indicates the presence of two primary groups: average anglers (email survey) and avid anglers (public meetings and web survey). In general, avid anglers reported fishing approximately twice as much as average anglers, had more diverse motivations for fishing; greater degrees of species specialization; and a higher average catch. Furthermore, avid anglers expressed greater levels of concern over conservation-​related issues related to release mortality, regional fishing trends, and the overall status of Spotted Seatrout stock health coast-wide. In terms of general preferences for management, a majority of both average and avid anglers were supportive of the idea that Spotted Seatrout recovery might require regulatory changes featuring a decrease in the creel limit, an increase in the minimum size limit, or the use of slot-based management. Both average anglers and avid anglers were generally opposed, however, to the use of seasonal closures as a strategy for Spotted Seatrout stock recovery. A 5-point attitudinal scale (Strongly Oppose, Slightly Oppose, Unsure, Slightly Support, Strongly Support) was used to gauge respondent preferences for a series of five specific regulatory strategies. Each of these strategies were developed to meet the Department’s stated goal of a five-year recovery through a 20% annual reduction in harvested fish. Two specific strategies emerged as preferred scenarios for future management. The Creel & Size III option (15 fish, 13.5” minimum) and Creel & Size I option (12 fish, 13” minimum) were ranked first and second by survey respondents. Net preference (percent supported minus percent opposed) for the two options was estimated at 16.43% or 7.74%, respectively. These numbers, while modest, reflect a potential area of consensus amongst average and avid anglers.
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