Importance of the recreational SBT fishery to Portland's regional community
The study has found that the recreational SBT fishery in Portland makes a significant contribution to the Portland economy and regional community.
With $7.3 million to $7.7 million per annum in expenditure on accommodation, food and drinks, fuel for cars and boats, fishing supplies and charter boat fees, the recreational fishery contributes to local tourism and attracts numerous overnight visitors whose main purpose for travel is the SBT fishery. An estimated 3,000 anglers come to Portland each season (they often travel in groups with fellow anglers or are accompanied by other family members) and typically return multiple times per season.
Hence, the recreational SBT fishery makes a valuable contribution to the 12,651-resident town27 in South West Victoria, where other main industries include aluminium (with Alcoa's aluminium smelter based in Portland), the commercial fishing industry and wind energy.
Limitations of the survey estimates and areas for further research
Estimates are surrounded by some degree of uncertainty due to the inherently uncertain nature of sample survey data. While this survey was designed in a way to ensure that the sample is as representative as possible and potential bias is limited, project timing and budget provided some constraints on this.
For instance, undertaking surveying throughout the whole of the SBT season would provide a better representation of participation and a better idea of intra-seasonal patterns. Having an independent basis to verify number of anglers over the season would help to improve the precision of the extrapolation and the level of certainty around overall estimates.
Furthermore, in order to understand the marginal impact of a reduction in catch rates, we would need to know how a change in catch affects observed expenditure. Ideally this should be assessed through a longitudinal study.
Comparison with the commercial SBT fishery
SBT is a critically endangered species and catch is restricted through an international quota system. In Australia, where the commercial catch limit is currently set at 4,528 tonnes and there is no formal allocation of SBT quota to the recreational SBT fishery, the recreational SBT fishery is much smaller than the commercial fishery but nevertheless substantial. In Victoria, the total weight of SBT harvested by recreational anglers is estimated to be around 240 tonnes (equivalent to 6% of Australia's commercial catch allocation of SBT). Most of the commercial SBT catch is exported, primarily to Japan, at around $25 to $30 per kilogram – although large, high-quality fish can attract a significant premium.
At between $14 and $28 per kilogram of expenditure per fish kept, the recreational SBT fishing experience is of comparable value to the commercial fishery. The ability of a SBT to be a non-consumptive resource adds further to its value.
Comparison with recreational fishing in Victoria
In 2009, the recreational fishing industry in Victoria was valued at $825 million with $2.3 billion in direct expenditure and 721,000 recreational anglers undertaking an average of 12 trips per annum and spending around $250 per trip (Ernst & Young, 2009).
With up to 20,000 angler fishing days per annum, i.e. 10,000 trips to Portland (at two angler fishing days per trip) or around 3,200 anglers (at 6.1 angler fishing days per angler), the recreational SBT fishery accounts for only a small share of the volume of recreational fishing days in Victoria. However, at $762 per trip ($381 over two fishing days per visit to Portland), expenditure on the recreational SBT fishery is significantly higher than on the average fishing experience due to the fishery requiring more expensive equipment and being only accessible from South West Victoria, which requires substantial travel for most Victorians. In other words, the SBT fishery off Portland is a higher proportion of the total value of recreational fishing in Victoria, than it is as a proportion of daily trips.
Comparison with other relevant studies
Our consumer surplus estimates are in line with other valuation studies for recreational fishing in Australia. For instance, empirical evidence based on the survey undertaken by Rolfe and Prayaga (2007) at three dams and lakes in Queensland associated with high levels of recreational fishing, revealed per person and trip consumer surplus estimates between $60 and $904 for frequent anglers and between $221 and $441 for occasional anglers. The authors also provided empirical evidence that in addition to this, recreational anglers are willing to pay on average between $19 and $43 per year for a 20% improvement in their catch rate, which translates into a direct estimate of the change in consumer surplus due to a change in fish populations (assuming it leads to an enhanced recreational experience).
More recently, Ezzy et al. (2012) provided consumer surplus estimates in relation to the value of recreational SBT catch at Portland of between $33 and $132 per person per visit. These consumer surplus estimates are based on travel costs, accounting for car, boat fuel and gear costs, with the upper estimate incorporating the opportunity cost of travel time.
Further issues to be considered
This study on the 2012 value of the recreational SBT fishery in Portland – along with DPI's 2012 'Counting the Catch' study – provided some valuable insights into the recreational SBT fishery in Portland and helped to fill a void in the knowledge about the value of the SBT fishery as a recreational asset. It provides the Victorian Government with a better understanding of the economic benefits of the SBT fishery and a sound evidence base to inform future planning, infrastructure and investment decisions by fishing businesses and the local council.
It should be noted that the value of the recreational SBT fishery:
- is based on an estimated (rather than actual) number of angler fishing days, which is surrounded by some degree of uncertainty;
- varies from year to year as a result of the length and timing of the season, weather and the number and size of SBT caught;
- may change with developments in neighbouring regions and does not account for possible substitution effects of adjacent fishing amenities;
- is conditional on existing macro trends and microeconomic determinants.
27 ABS 2011 Census QuickStats