Recreational fisheries ignored for too long, scientists say

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26 Mar

“For too long, the considerable importance and impacts of recreational fisheries have been ignored,” states a team of fisheries scientists, economists, sociologists and ecologists in an opinion paper published earlier this month. The paper includes a five steps policy reform to address the shortcomings.

Recreational fisheries: Very important but ignored

According to the scientists globally there are +220 million recreational fishers. The scientists urge policymakers and managers worldwide to pay more attention to “the often-ignored recreational fisheries sector,” and stress that, “Recreational fisheries deserve to be considered on equal footing with commercial fisheries, particularly in mixed coastal fisheries”.

The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy is given as an example of a policy that ignores the recreational fisheries sector, which leads to, “inefficient allocations, loss of human welfare, and heightened conflict.”

Policymakers and managers need to acknowledge that in recreational fisheries fish are part of a multifaceted leisure experience, not primarily a source of food or personal income as in commercial fisheries.

There is a need to “rethink management objectives and schemes, involve recreational fishers in decision-making processes, incentivize sustainable angler behavior, and improve data collection and monitoring.” But, recreational fisheries should not be managed like commercial fisheries as “beyond nutritional benefits, recreational fisheries provide a range of psychological, social, educational, and economic benefits to fishers and society that are not associated with commercial fisheries.”

The way forward 

“The challenge for recreational fisheries is to shift away from the poor incentives created by one-size-fits-all harvest regulations, annual licensing, and widespread stocking in inland fisheries to policies and regulations that unleash virtuous incentives among a vastly more numerous population of highly diverse people,” the scientists say. Tough allocation decisions cannot be avoided. Tradeoffs relate to fish, fishing time, and site access.

The scientists have drawn up ‘five pragmatic steps’ for policy reform - summarised below.

Policy Reform for Sustainability – five steps:

1) Policymakers and managers need to acknowledge the overriding recreational nature of most recreational fishing; that fish are part of a multifaceted leisure experience, not primarily a source of food or personal income as in commercial fisheries. Move beyond dated paradigms to manage recreational fisheries.

2) Anglers must be better organized and involved in management processes. Angler organizations are key to the promotion of improved participation in management processes and monitoring. Incentives for involvement increase when angler interests are considered on equal footing with other stakeholders, such as commercial fishers.

3) Need for diversified management schemes, as a single fishery typically cannot satisfy the often-conflicting objectives of a heterogeneous group of recreational fishers.

4) The quantity of recreational fishing privileges needs to be limited and consistent with biological management targets.

5) Data collection and monitoring must be able to assess the status of recreational fisheries in hundreds to thousands of ecosystems and be used in communication with stakeholders and for assessment of policy effectiveness and social-ecological outcomes. Mandatory catch and effort reporting in recreational fisheries complemented by scientific surveys and assisted by novel technology, such as digital smartphone applications of logbooks and diaries to monitor catches and effort, would have the dual benefits of providing data and sending a signal to anglers that monitoring is also their responsibility to improve stock assessments and avoid invisible collapses.

According to EAA and EFTTA, any EU policy reform must take duly into account that EU sea fisheries are managed under the Common Fisheries Policy while freshwater fisheries are, by and large, a national prerogative. What current is in place and doable for freshwater management might not be workable or political acceptable for sea fisheries management, and vice versa.

The opinion paper – link and reference:
“Opinion: Governing the recreational dimension of global fisheries”;
By Robert Arlinghaus, Joshua K. Abbott, Eli P. Fenichel, Stephen R. Carpenter, Len M. Hunt, Josep Alós, Thomas Klefoth, Steven J. Cooke, Ray Hilborn, Olaf P. Jensen, Michael J. Wilberg, John R. Post, and Michael J. Manfredo;
PNAS, March 19, 2019
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