Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

William B. Gorden Jr.


Many recreationally popular marine species of fish are at or near historic lows in terms of their overall numbers. Many of these species, such as cod, summer flounder, winter flounder, and bluefish, are also commercially valuable. Fishery managers must be able to make allocation and management decisions that both protect the resource and maintain user satisfaction. The basis for achieving this goal lies in the understanding of what the users expectations, satisfactions and perceptions are related to their marine recreational fishing experience. It is often the case that a population of anglers are managed as a homogeneous group, with similar characteristics and satisfactions. In fact, recreational anglers are quite different, with many sub-groups that each have their own set of attitudes and expectations regarding their marine recreational fishing experience.

In addition to the economic benefits of marine recreational fishing, their are equally important psychological and physiological benefits associated with recreational fishing. Early studies found stress relief, experiencing natural surroundings, being with friends, developing skills and relaxation as some of the reasons why they participate in marine recreational fishing. Researchers began to study how various sub-groups of angers placed different levels of importance on catch (fish size, numbers of fish caught, keeping fish to eat) and non-catch (relaxation, for the sport, enjoying nature) motives for participating in marine recreational fishing. These sub-groups could be charter boat anglers, shore-based anglers, anglers who pursued certain species of fish, or anglers with different levels of specialization.

Previous research has shown that participants in a recreational activity are spread in a continuum, at one end are the least specialized and at the other the most specialized. More specialized anglers may seek more specific recreational fishing activities than less specialized anglers. They may be more willing to cooperate with restrictive management decisions and convince less specialized anglers to support these measures. The activity of recreational fishing is usually more central to a highly specialized angler than a less specialized one. The highly specialized angler participates in fishing more often, reads fishing related material, participates in fishing tournaments, and is more likely to be a member of a fishing club than less specialized anglers.

The objective of this thesis was to refine the methodology which discriminates marine recreational anglers by their revealed level of recreational specialization. A subsidiary objective was to create a data base of Rhode Island club anglers which provides the first comprehensive evaluation of their characteristics.

Surveys were distributed to various fishing clubs around the state. These clubs were all members of the Rhode Island Alliance. The survey solicited information regarding the importance the angler placed on various motivational statements as to why they participate in marine recreational fishing. Three variables (avidity, monetary investment, years of fishing experience) were selected as a means of segmenting the study population into two sub-groups, one highly specialized the other less specialized. For each variable, those anglers who fell more than one standard deviation above the mean were considered highly specialized and their responses to the various motive statements were compared to the remaining anglers who were considered less specialized. It was hypothesized that the highly specialized anglers would place greater importance on the sport and challenge motives (for the sport, developing fishing skills, a fishing trip can be successful even if no fish are caught) for marine recreational fishing than less specialized anglers. It was also hypothesized that the highly specialized anglers would place less importance on the harvest and consumption motives (keeping your catch, bringing fish home to eat, catching many fish) for recreational fishing than less specialized anglers.

The variables avidity and years of experience proved to be excellent discriminators of recreational fishing specialization. Anglers in the highly specialized category of each of these variables placed greater importance on the sport and challenge motives and less importance on the harvest and consumption motives for recreational fishing. The variable for monetary investment failed to produce any significant results.

The management utility of this study can be derived from understanding that recreational anglers are a diverse group, with different perceptions, expectations, motivations and satisfactions with their recreational fishing experience. With this knowledge, fishery managers can better project how their constituents will react to various management measures. With the proper understanding of the resource and the users of the resource, managers can implement regulations that both protect the resource and maintain user satisfaction, which is a desired goal of any management plan.



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