Curtin University researchers are aiming to prove what anglers have long suspected – that recreational fishing has clear, measurable benefits for the health and wellbeing for those who participate.
Professor Alexandra McManus, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Science Seafood and Health (CESSH) said an Australia-wide scoping study had already provided evidence of the benefits of fishing.
The next step for researchers is to quantify them in economic, health and social terms.
'The main reason Australians go fishing, apart from catching dinner, is to relax and unwind so it made sense for us to develop a project to look into why it is relaxing and if there are other health benefits associated with fishing,' Professor McManus said.
'We are hearing that young people benefit from fishing because they are interacting with nature and replacing sedentary electronic leisure activities with outdoor activity. We also know from previous studies, that fishing has positive impacts on antisocial behaviour.
'The scoping study suggests hyperactive children are able to sit calmly by the water for extended periods and that children who have trouble communicating verbally, clearly enjoy fishing.
'For seniors, fishing is a healthy outdoor activity that provides Vitamin D – a major health concern in Australia – and an easily digested source of lean protein at little financial cost.'
'Recreational fishing is one of the few outdoor activities that can be enjoyed regardless of age, ability and, to a large extent, mobility.'
Fishing has been shown to help to reduce stress and the action of casting may help to improve upper body strength.
Game fishing and fishing in remote locations requires fitness, strength and stamina.
Fly fishing is an ideal exercise for women who have undergone mastectomies or related surgeries.
'Our project wants to capture data that examines how and why fishing impacts on health and wellbeing,' Professor McManus said.
'Despite the fact that around 25 per cent of all Australian households have at least one person who regularly participates in recreational fishing, there has been relatively little formal research into its actual health benefits.
'Researchers will be asking people across Western Australia to complete a questionnaire relating to outdoor physical activity, recreational fishing, health, wellbeing and quality of life.
'The research study starts this month and is due to be completed in 2014.'
This project is partly funded through the Recreational Fishing Initiatives Fund and is supported by Recfishwest and the Department of Fisheries.
The full report from the initial scoping study, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, can be accessed at http://cessh.curtin.edu.au/local/docs/RecFishinglr.pdf