The effects of aquatic invasive species on recreational fishing participation and value in the Great Lakes: possible future scenarios.
The impacts of aquatic invasive species (AIS) on the recreational fishery in the Laurentian Great Lakes are of concern to managers and policy makers. Some AIS have the potential to depress sportfish populations, reducing recreational fishing opportunities and damaging local economies. Alternatives that could reduce the threat of AIS could be costly. Assessments of how AIS could affect recreational fishing participation and the economic value derived from it would contribute to the evaluation of these alternatives. We assessed best-case and worst-case scenarios for how a range of AIS could affect recreational fishing participation and economic value. We utilized previously developed scenarios for how AIS could affect sportfish populations as input for a recreational fishing model developed by Ready et al. (2018). Their model estimated changes in fishing participation and economic value from such scenarios. Given uncertainty in how AIS could affect sportfish, projected effects of AIS on economic value varied widely, with some scenarios likely to have minimal effects and others leading to losses of over $100 million annually. None of the scenarios would lead to a large percentage decrease in recreational fishing in the eight Great Lake states, largely because anglers have numerous inland fishing opportunities. Nevertheless, lakeshore communities dependent on Great Lakes fishing could still suffer considerable economic loss. Collectively the economic valuation of the range of scenarios narrows down the possible impacts on fishing and the economy that decision makers need to consider.