UPDATED: Including marine recreational fisheries in the CFP: can the EU afford not to?

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26 Mar

On 4 December, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries organised a webinar on the monitoring and control of recreational fisheries. The official report of the event is now available.

The event gathered national experts, Commission officials, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur on the revision of the Control Regulation MEP Clara Aguilera, representatives from anglers organisations and the recreational fisheries sector, as well as environmental NGOs and commercial fisheries representatives from the different Advisory Councils. David Mitchell, Chair of the Sea Subgroup of the European Anglers Alliance gave a presentation at the event. He called on the European Commission to acknowledge the need for more socio-economic data on the recreational fishing sector to be collected and made the case for a full inclusion of the sector in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The official report of the event is now available: click here to read it

This webinar took place while the negotiations on the revision of the Fisheries Control Regulation are ongoing. The main objective of this event was to present the preliminary findings and results of the EU-funded pilot project called Control “Scheme for Recreational Catches of Sea Bass” launched in order to establish better management and control measures for recreational fisheries in the framework of the Control Regulation and future multiannual management plans.

Pointing to the European Commission’s strong focus on collecting data on recreational catches without considering the socio-economic importance of the sector, Mr Mitchell advocated for full inclusion of marine recreational fishing (MRF) in the CFP. The MRF sector is estimated to represent 10.5 billion euros of annual economic impact and 100,000 jobs in Europe. He underlined that the economic, environmental and social impact of angling is significant enough to recognise the sector as a full actor in the CFP. Management decisions for recreational fisheries should not be made as a function of the impact on commercial fisheries, he argued. 
Moreover, recreational fishing is already supporting the realisation of the CFP objectives as anglers take part in the efforts for a more sustainable and selective fishing and are already involved in science-based decision making, for example through the Advisory Councils or by participating in the ICES sea bass benchmarking session. Anglers already comply with specific requirements in the Control Regulation, technical measures, data collection and multiannual plans.

This ‘half-in, half-out’ status, where inclusion is only based around control and monitoring, must end. Being already regulated by the CFP, the sector must be recognised as a full stakeholder to be able to make its voice heard, Mr Mitchell concluded. This strong presentation was also supported by the fishing tackle trade industry, represented by EFTTA’s CEO, Olivier Portrat.

MEP Clara Aguilera acknowledged that better data collection is very much needed for recreational fishing and that it will be a core element of the ongoing negotiations on the new Control Regulation. Establishing a registration or licence system for individuals engaged in recreational fisheries activities is a way to provide appropriate data to better evaluate the impact and the importance of the sector.

Commenting on the reference made by MEP Aguilera to the 2018 European Parliament resolution on MRF (the Nicolai report) in which she argued that MRF should not influence commercial fisheries negatively, Harry Strehlow from the Thuenen-Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, and Member of the ICES Working Group on Recreational Fisheries Surveys (WGRFS), wrote ‘Why should this be important from an EU perspective? And if, why not ask: what are the effects of commercial fishing on the recreational sector? I am thinking about the efficient use of natural resources.’ He further developed this idea in his own presentation. He recalled that there is no legal framework that says how to allocate resources between commercial and recreational fisheries and that a paradigm shift is necessary in order to regulate recreational fisheries and thus better management of marine biological resources. Dr Strehlow emphasised the economic importance of the MRF sector, making the point for an inclusion in the CFP. He underlined that:

  • It is important to understand how anglers are affected by regulations in order to sustain the sector and ensure the continued economic benefit to coastal regions; and
  • Anglers do not maximise catches but their satisfaction. “Here too, better data will help determine what that angler satisfaction is, what drives anglers, and how policy and sector development goals can help strengthen our sector”.

Several data collection apps were presented during the webinar, highlighting the readiness of anglers to contribute to data collection on their catches but also the need to provide positive incentives to make these systems viable.

Greater participation of recreational fishers in the development of management plans and other regulations was also supported by Matias Lozano who presented the results of an app tested in Spain, called Dpesca.

Francesca Arena, Head of the Control Unit (DG MARE, European Commission) concluded by acknowledging that she was impressed by the figures presented on recreational fisheries. She assured that the Commission would consider the main messages during the upcoming negations on the Fisheries Control System and under the CFP assessment and called on filling the gaps between recreational fishers and fisheries managers. Ms Arena also agreed that more knowledge on recreational fisheries is needed, as well as a more prominent role in the CFP, and this will lead to better regulation of the fishing sector as a whole and thus a better management and protection of marine biological resources.

Link to the EAA Presentation
Link to the agenda of the meeting
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