Recreational fishers are being asked to help researchers understand the ecological role of snapper and lobster.
The University of Newcastle is working on the project with OzFish, a national conservation charity.
They urged the NSW recreational fishing community to donate a small flesh and gut sample of their catch to research.
The researchers will analyse the samples to support management of fish habitats along the NSW coastline.
Jeremy Day, a University of Newcastle researcher, said fishers were "really involved with protecting the biodiversity and ecology of nearshore coastal ecosystems".
"It's been my experience that these people are pretty knowledgeable. They're caretakers of the environment in many ways," he said.
"Typically they want to give back to the environment and maintain fisheries stocks for years to come."
Mr Day said his own passion for conservation comes from the link between fishing for food and the natural environment.
"We all want to continue fishing. To do that in a sustainable way, we need to support the ecological factors that underpin fisheries. I think fishers in NSW understand that."
Samples that anglers provide will help OzFish to focus its habitat restoration programs.
"Dietary analysis is so important because at the moment there are fundamental unknowns about how coastal ecosystems operate," Mr Day said.
"We know that snapper eat urchins, but we don't know how often and why. By analysing these samples, we will be giving ecologists and organisations like OzFish the information they need to better manage our nearshore ecosystems."
To be involved, anglers will take a small flesh sample about 2cm wide, or the gut contents of their catch, put it in a zip-lock bag and on ice. After writing the date, general location and species on the bag, they can submit it to OzFish at various locations along the NSW east coast.
Cassie Price, director of habitat programs at OzFish, said "the more snapper samples we can provide, the better we will be able to protect and restore the places we like to fish".
"This project is not asking fishos to go out and kill snapper. It is asking those who head out regularly and like to keep the odd one for a feed to set aside a small portion for research," Ms Price said.
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