Inclusion of recreational fishing in data-limited stocks: a case study on Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Norway
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Recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries are challenging to monitor but can act as precursors of developments in commercial fisheries, contributing information in data-limited situations. We compared trends in commercial landings of Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) with data collected through a citizen science project by recreational fishers in Norway during a period that coincided with the onset of a commercial trap fishery. The results show that trap fishing for Nephrops emerged recently in Norway, with significant regional differences in size composition and catch rates. Comparable patterns in catch rates between regions were found in commercial landings during the same period, suggesting that landings per boat trip may provide a suitable abundance index in a severely data-limited fishery. Our study indicates that recreational fishing acted as trailblazer for a surge in fishing with lower-impact gear along the Norwegian coast, underscoring the fact that non-commercial fisheries may act as early indicators of emerging commercial fisheries. Collecting information through citizen science projects targeting non-commercial fishers can therefore provide baseline data, especially from the earliest, unmonitored stages of fisheries, and contribute to stock assessment.