Recreational fishing is an important activity in Australia, both socially and economically. It is also likely to provide wellbeing benefits. The Australian Government, through the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, funded a national survey to measure the social and economic benefits of recreational fishing around Australia. The research is being undertaken by the Australia Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and the University of Canberra.

The National Recreational Fishing Survey (NRFS) was initially planned to be conducted between December 2018 and November 2020, however this was extended to June 2021 to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on fishing activity. The survey developed and tested new methods to reduce future survey costs while maintaining robustness.

The study surveyed 20,368 people collecting data on participation, demographics, impacts of COVID-19 on fishing activity, bait use, fishing effort, substitutability in fishing, social licence, social connection, economic contribution, economic flow, physical activity, wellbeing, and stewardship. The collection of data on catch by recreational fishers was out of scope for this survey.

The project has experienced several delays along the way, due to the 2019-20 bushfires and COVID-19. These have impacted several aspects of the project but have also presented opportunities to collect additional data (i.e., on the impacts of natural disasters on recreational fishing activity). While data collection and the majority of analysis has now been completed, the written report including key findings is not yet complete. Peer review is an important aspect of this project to ensure the robustness of the findings. While a steering committee has been providing advice throughout the project, a formal independent external peer review process is also required. This will involve the draft report being reviewed by several international experts in the field. The revised timing for public release of the final report is now mid-2022.

The outputs of the survey will provide the most up to date data on recreational fishing at a national level. It will also provide data that have not previously been collected in Australia, including wellbeing, social licence, social connection, national, jurisdictional and regional economic contribution, physical activity, stewardship and the impacts of COVID-19 on fishing activity.


This study is funded by the Australian government and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.