Capturing Minority Voices: A Focus Group Approach to Understanding Fishing Behavior in Alabama

Recreational fisheries planning and management relies on an engaged public with support in the form of fishing license sales and expenditures that fund operations and provide education and outreach services. To improve our understanding of two minority population segments with low historic participation in freshwater recreational fishing in Alabama, we examined their fishing participation and non-participation behaviors using focus groups. The objectives of the study were to gather information about 1.) African American and Latinx fishing-related experiences, values, and motivations, 2.) constraints that may prevent individuals of these population segments from fishing in public waters, and 3.) constraint negotiation strategies that may enable them to increase their participation. In spring 2018, we conducted nine semi-structured focus group meetings with African American and Latinx community members in seven urban and rural locations across the state. We found that fishing is culturally relevant and valuable to both segments though perceived and encountered constraints such as information regarding fishing licenses, knowledge and skills, time, work, and access points influenced their participation. Purchasing a fishing license was the most significant constraint communicated by the Latinx segment. Latinx participants emphasized social connection as a motivation for fishing while relaxing and escaping stressors was highlighted by African American participants. General awareness about opportunities, basic fishing information, and regulations was low, while a desire for education, outreach, and opportunities to fish was high. Our study initiated dialogue between the state agency and an underrepresented audience and is a first step in understanding the latter’s behavior regarding freshwater recreational fishing. These findings have important implications for recruiting and retaining diverse participants.

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