Given the well-documented impacts of angler behavior on the biological fitness of angled and released fish, optimizing the conservation value of catch-and-release angling hinges on the extent to which anglers are willing to adopt recommended best practices and refrain from harmful ones. One potentially powerful mechanism underlying adoption of best practices is the social pressure anglers can apply to one another to enforce community norms and values. Past work in other domains demonstrates that forms of interpersonal communication—including social sanctioning—can foster context-appropriate social norms and increase cooperative behavior; yet to date, little research has examined these dynamics in the context of species conservation. We conducted in-person and online surveys to explore the role of social sanctioning in the context of an internationally renowned wild steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fishery in British Columbia, Canada. We investigated how diverse social-psychological and demographic factors influence anglers' past and future sanctioning propensity. Results highlight that perceived capacity to influence the angling practices of others and professed concerns about one's own reputation were strongly predictive of both past and future sanctioning. Furthermore, while anglers reported relatively low-levels of past sanctioning behavior, most anglers simultaneously expressed a strong desire to sanction others in the future. Identifying ways to increase the social desirability and visibility of sanctioning actions could assist resource managers in promoting adoption and maintenance of best practices. More broadly, our findings underscore a significant yet underappreciated role for wildlife users and enthusiasts in cultivating a shared conservation ethic to help ensure biological conservation.

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Keywords Catch-and-release, Conservation, Cooperation, Recreational fisheries, Social sanctions, Steelhead
Persistent URL
Journal Journal of Environmental Management
Guckian, M.L. (Meaghan L.), Danylchuk, A.J. (Andy J.), Cooke, S.J, & Markowitz, E.M. (Ezra M.). (2018). Peer pressure on the riverbank: Assessing catch-and-release anglers' willingness to sanction others' (bad) behavior. Journal of Environmental Management, 219, 252–259. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.04.117