What is recreational fishing?
- with emphasis on EU legislation
A number of terms are used for 'recreational fishing' and 'recreational angling' e.g. leisure fishing, pastime fishing, sport fishing, game fishing, non-commercial fishing, for pleasure fishing, angling, recreational angling.
The use of these terms can cause confusion as some of them have more than one meaning, and some terms in use have different names but same meaning. This is in particular of importance concerning management. Lawmakers, fisheries managers, scientists and stakeholders need unequivocal terms to be able to discuss, legislate and manage properly various sectors and segments of fisheries. For example it happens that commercial fishers are regarded recreational fishers and their catches wrongly counted as recreational catches due to loopholes in the legislation. This can happen when the fish are caught on angling gear but by people who sell the fish without a commercial license.
Also, in particularly at EU level concerning sea fisheries, most often 'recreational fishing' is seen and treated as one homogeneous group of fishers, which is not very wise or helpful. The gear used by recreational fishers - e.g. pots, nets, long-lines, spears, rod and line (angling) - have different impact on the fish stocks and the environment. Anglers (rod and line) can only catch a fish if the fish is hungry or its reflex action is triggered, which is not the case for most other gears. Anglers can only 'thin' a shoal of fish whereas other gears can take big chunks out of it or simply take out a whole shoal in one go (mainly the larger commercial fishing gear can do that). Also, nets can be set (illegally) to block the mouth of a small river so no fish can enter or leave that river.
The survival rate of released or discarded fish has become a big issue since the latest reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (the CFP of 2013) introduced a 'discard ban' (or a 'landing obligation'). The basic rule is that all fish under catch limitation regulations should be landed. However, there are exemptions, which allow continued discards e.g. (Article 15(4:b): "species for which scientific evidence demonstrates high survival rates, taking into account the characteristics of the gear, of the fishing practices and of the ecosystem".
Most fish caught by recreational anglers will typically survive the experience of being caught and released, whereas for other gears the survival rate can be anything from 0 to 100% dependent on the gear type and handling:
"It is widely known that fish survival depends on a multitude of factors, including: fishing gear, fish speed, tow time, water temperature, types of sea floor, processing, exposure to air, fish condition and body length. ";
cutting from "The Landing Obligation and Its Implications on the Control of Fisheries" (2015) by the European Parliament's Policy Department B: Structural and Cohesion Policies, FISHERIES.
The discard ban arguably only applies to commercial fisheries. Nevertheless, catch and release data are required by the Data Collection Framework with regard to some species (cod, Bluefin tuna, salmon, eels, sea bass and sharks) and by the CFP for stock assessment of these and other species: "A large proportion of recreational catch is often released, so accurate estimates of post-release mortality are also required for stock assessment. Post-release mortality is difficult to measure and is dependent on many factors including capture depth, gear, and species. More studies are needed in this area." "Recreational sea fishing – the high value forgotten catch " (2014) - by K. Hyder, M. Armstrong, K. Ferter and H. V. Strehlow; p. 8:
Fishing motivation factors. A commercial fisher go fishing to earn money first and foremost. Profit is not a motivation factor for recreational fishers. Recreational fishers are driven by a number of other factors, which can be very different from one recreational fisher to another. See for an example "The Importance of Understanding Angler Heterogeneity for Managing Recreational Fisheries" (2014) - by Alan Benedict Beardmore, 2013 (see p. 93, table 3.1), and "Effectively managing angler satisfaction in recreational fisheries requires understanding the fish species and the anglers" - by Ben Beardmore, Len M. Hunt, Wolfgang Haider, Malte Dorow, and Robert Arlinghaus
In 2004 we (EAA) made an attempt to clean up in some of the terminology mess by publishing
'A Definition on Recreational Angling', which can be downloaded here in English and French.
Then, in 2008 EIFAC, the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission adopted and published
The publication is written in English but has a 'non-official translation' annexed - from page 23 onwards: "Code d’usages de la CECPI pour les pêches de loisir".
Some cuttings from the EIFAC Code:
Recreational fishing constitutes the dominant or sole use of many freshwater stocks in the EIFAC region. Its importance is also increasing in economies in transition of that region. Yet little attention has been paid in international policy documents to the responsible management of recreational fisheries. This creates confusion among policy-makers, national and regional bodies, and organizations responsible for fisheries management. As a consequence, the issues faced by this sector are often overlooked or undervalued by policy-makers and in public discussion about the future of the world’s fisheries. The present document aims at addressing this imbalance.
The EIFAC Code of Practice [CoP] for Recreational Fisheries is intended to complement and extend the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and is framed specifically towards recreational fisheries practices and issues. It serves as the core document that describes the minimum standards of environmentally-friendly, ethically-appropriate and – depending on local situations – socially acceptable recreational fishing and its management. Although it is clear that many, if not all, of the issues presented in this CoP are already addressed through national fisheries legislation and regional fisheries management regulations in many countries in the EIFAC region, an EIFAC CoP could help make these approaches more coherent. The present CoP is a voluntary instrument adopted and disseminated by the European Inland Fisheries Advisory Commission (EIFAC).
Cuttings from the GLOSSARY (page 20 onwards)
fisheries whose primary aim is to generate resources to meet nutritional (i.e. essential) human needs; in both full-time and part-time commercial fisheries, fish and other aquatic organisms are sold on domestic and export markets. Commercial fisheries include fisheries that supply feed to the aquaculture and agriculture sectors and raw material to other industrial sectors (e.g. the biomedical sector).
fishing of aquatic animals that do not constitute the individual’s primary resource to meet nutritional needs and are not generally sold or otherwise traded on export, domestic or black markets. The unambiguous demarcation between pure recreational fisheries and pure subsistence fisheries is often difficult. However, using fishing activity to generate resources for livelihood marks a clear tipping point between recreational fisheries and subsistence fisheries. Globally, angling is by far the most common recreational fishing technique, which is why recreational fishing is often used synonymously with (recreational) angling.
Recreational fisheries sector:
the entire network of stakeholders involved in or fully or partly dependent on recreational fisheries including amongst others fisheries ministries and agencies, managers, non-governmental organizations (e.g., umbrella angling associations and clubs), anglers, non-angling recreational fishers, tackle shops and tackle manufacturers, bait suppliers, charter-boating industry, recreational boat builders and chandlery suppliers, marina operators and specialised angling and fishing media, recreational fishing tourism and other related business and organisations as well as all other enterprises supporting recreational fisheries including aquaculture operations that produce stocking material or commercial fishing enterprises that sell angling tickets on their waters. A range of other stakeholders and managerial regimes are not included in this definition though they may run or advocate activities and developments that have a direct impact on the recreational fishing quality and the recreational fisheries sector, the sector’s viability and growth potential (e.g., hydropower generation, water management, irrigation).
fishing for aquatic animals that contribute substantially to meeting an individual’s nutritional needs. In pure subsistence fisheries, fishing products are not traded on formal domestic or export markets but are consumed personally or within a close network of family and friends. Pure subsistence fisheries sustain a basic level of livelihood and constitute a culturally significant food-producing and distributing activity.
- "These definitions have been taken from a number of sources including Wikipedia, national recreational fishing reports, ICES, and FAO, and were adapted for our purposes. The terms are defined in the context of recreational fishing and some terms may have slightly different (but analogous) meanings for commercial fishing and in fisheries science."
- "Recreational fishing is the capture or attempted capture of living aquatic resources mainly for leisure and / or personal consumption. This covers active fishing methods including line, spear, and hand–gathering, and passive fishing methods including nets, traps, pots, and set–lines."
Based on the information above and other sources EAA has drawn this figure
(with some notes below the figure)
Boundaries between fishing categories - Recreational-, commercial- and subsistence fishing
(Latest revision: 8 Oct 2015)
1) – ‘Subsistence fishing’ cannot be referred to any of the two groups. It belongs to both or none of them. The EU legislation doesn’t recognise ‘subsistence fishing’ as a legitimate sector or segment in its own right (see this Commission answer of 27 March 2014).
The ‘EIFAC CODE of Practice for Recreational Fisheries (2007; p. 21) has this to say about subsistence fisheries:
“The unambiguous demarcation between pure recreational fisheries and pure subsistence fisheries is often difficult. However, using fishing activity to generate resources for livelihood marks a clear tipping point between recreational fisheries and subsistence fisheries.” .. "Subsistence fisheries: fishing for aquatic animals that contribute substantially to meeting an individual’s nutritional needs. In pure subsistence fisheries, fishing products are not traded on formal domestic or export markets but are consumed personally or within a close network of family and friends. Pure subsistence fisheries sustain a basic level of livelihood and constitute a culturally significant food-producing and distributing activity.
2) - Often a distinction is made between ‘active’ vs. ‘passive’ gears, which is of importance for fisheries management (see for an example here). However, it is not always possible to make a clear allocation of gears to either group: “some moving gears such as drift nets may also be classified as passive gears, as fish captured by these gears also depend on movement of the target species towards the gear.”
3) - Spearfishing is not mentioned explicitly in this figure but belongs to the “Other recreational fishing” category, or in a category of its own between “Recreational Angling” and “Other recreational fishing”. Also worth to notice: Spears and harpoons are regarded active gears, whereas line fishing is regarded a passive gear. Thus, recreational angling and recreational spear hunting are not in the same group if active vs. passive gear is made a criterion.
4) – The European Parliament has asked a report about the “Socioeconomic role and environmental impact of recreational, subsistence, small-scale and other fisheries in European union”(see p. 25)
- in process, Oct 2015; Max. 36 pages.
Recreational fishing and angling mentioned in EU legislation. Some examples:
● The Control Regulation (2009) - CHAPTER V - Control of recreational fisheries - Article 55 - Recreational fisheries
● Council Decision of 19 July 2004 establishing Regional Advisory Councils under the Common Fisheries Policy - Article 1(3):
‘Other interest groups’ shall mean, amongst others, environmental organisations and groups, aquaculture producers, consumers and recreational or sport fishermen.
PS: There is no explicit mention of recreational fishing in ‘COMMISSION DELEGATED REGULATION (EU) 2015/242 of 9 October 2014 laying down detailed rules on the functioning of the Advisory Councils under the Common Fisheries Policy’ (2014). However, recreational fishing (recreational angling/sportfishing) is still accepted and represented in the ‘Other interest groups’ as has been the case since 2004
● COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1639/2001
of 25 July 2001
CHAPTER III - Parameters - "data collection must make it possible to assess: .. catches from recreational and game fisheries in marine waters for stocks mentioned in Appendix
Complementary parameters - "catches from game and recreational fisheries for stocks other than those mentioned in Appendix XI,
for salmon, the catches taken in estuaries, lakes and rivers in the geographical area of the Baltic Sea
and the North Sea."
● The Data Collection Framework (DCF) Art 2(a): ‘fisheries sector’ means activities related to commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, aquaculture and industries processing fisheries products;
Art 2(c): ‘recreational fisheries’ means non-commercial fishing activities exploiting living aquatic resources for recreation or sport;
Art 3(1;b): [Community programme] recreational fisheries carried out within Community waters including recreational fisheries for eels and salmon in inland waters;
● COMMISSION DECISION of 18 December 2009 adopting a multiannual Community programme for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector for the period 2011-2013
● COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING DECISION of 13 August 2013 extending the multiannual Union programme for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector for the period 2011-2013 to the period 2014-2016
PS: The DCF is up for revision (Sept 2015) – EP Rapporteur appointed: MEP Marco Affronte
● Mediterranean Sea:
COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 1967/2006 of 21 December 2006 (Corrigendum version of 2 Feb 2007)
Article 2(8) "leisure fisheries" means fishing activities exploiting living aquatic resources for recreation or sport;
CHAPTER VI - NON-COMMERCIAL FISHING - Article 17 - Leisure fisheries
Rod and line (angling) is permitted but (Art 17(1)):
"The use of towed nets, surrounding nets, purse seines, boat dredges, mechanised dredges, gillnets, trammel nets and combined bottom-set nets shall be prohibited for leisure fisheries.
The use of longlines for highly migratory species shall also be prohibited for leisure fisheries."
Some recreational fishing answers to Members of Parliament by the European Commission:
● Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission, 25 March 2015
● Answer given by Ms Damanaki on behalf of the Commission, 10 Nov 2011
● Answer given by Ms Damanaki on behalf of the Commission - 27 March 2014
● See also our sea bass dossier
Reform of the CFP (Common Fisheries policy) 2013.
EAA and EFTTA statement:
"We regret that EU ministers have not agreed
to Parliament's wish to see recreational fishing
mentioned positively in the CFP reform text."
● "EUROPEAN CHARTER ON RECREATIONAL FISHING AND BIODIVERSITY"
- adopted by the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention), Dec 2010
● "The definition of marine recreational fishing in Europe"
- Pawson, Glenn, Padda (2007)
● "EU contract FISH/2004/011 on Sport Fisheries (or Marine Recreational Fisheries) in the EU"
- Prepared for The European Commission Directorate-General for Fisheries - by Pawson, Tingley, Padda and Glenn (2007)
● "Explaining participation rates in recreational fishing across industrialised countries" - by Arlinghaus, Tilnner and Bork (2015)
● "Marine Recreational Fisheries - Data Collecton"
- Presentation given at Mediterranean Advisory Council meeting, Athens, 6 October 2015 - by Harry V. Strehlow, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, and Kieran Hyder, Cefas Lowestoft
● “The Sunken Billions: The Economic Justification for Fisheries Reform”
- by The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank (2009)
Page.44: “For example, in the United States, the total national economic impact from commercial finfish fisheries is 28.5 per cent of the impact created by marine recreational fisheries (Southwick Associates 2006), and in the case of the striped bass resources, which are shared between the commercial and recreational sectors, anglers harvest 1.28 times more fish, yet produce over 12 times more economic activity as a result (Southwick Associates 2005).”
"Hidden harvest : the global contribution of capture fishing" - by World Bank (2012)
Key findings (page XVIII ; pdf file's page 19):
"...Global estimated expenditures by approximately 220 million recreational fishers are about $190 billion annually. Recreational fisheries can be of greater economic importance than commercial fisheries in some countries, and they contribute about $70 billion to global GDP.