The EU Biodiversity Strategy contains ambitious targets for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): legally protecting a minimum of 30% of the EU’s sea area by 2030, of which at least a third must be strictly protected (ie. 10% of EU’s seas). This webinar discussed the role that recreational fishing can play in achieving these objectives. It came at an important time to inform the work of the European Parliament’s report on the Biodiversity Strategy and the European Commission’s draft technical note on criteria and guidance for protected areas designations.
On 20 April, MEP Isabel Carvalhais (Portugal, S&D Group) and MEP Søren Gade (Denmark, Renew Europe Group) co-chaired the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment webinar addressing the role of recreational anglers and the recreational fisheries sector in reaching the objective of protecting 30% of sea area by 2030.
In his keynote speech delivered by video message, the Portuguese Minister of the Sea, Ricardo Serrão Santos underlined that “recreational fishermen are a powerful group of stakeholders to support and contribute to conservation objectives, and for a sustainable economic development, including by raising awareness about nature and oceans. Many recreational anglers are involved in the conservation of aquatic species and habitats they depend upon.” He added that “responsible angling practices and the engagement of society in conservation initiatives benefit local communities by attracting economic activity, generating positive spill-overs throughout many sectors."
Taking up some of the points raised in the Minister’s keynote speech, Oliver Portrat, CEO of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA) and David Vertegaal, Marine Public Affairs Officer representing the European Anglers Alliance (EAA), recalled the role that the recreational fisheries sector can play as a vector of acceptance by local communities and a source of economic benefits. They also called for an ecology optimised approach of recreational fishing activities in MPAs: “Do not forget that recreational fishing, and in particular recreational angling, is a very selective fishing activity. It would be ineffective to put all kinds of fishing gears, all kinds of ‘extractive’ activities on the same level and simply ban angling from these areas.” Anglers can and want to play a role in the protection of MPAs and are more than happy to be managed and controlled, through bag limits, closed fishing seasons and strict minimum sizes to contribute to the recovery of important ocean habitats and species.
MEPs Isabel Carvalhais, Søren Gade and the Chair of the RecFishing Forum, Niclas Herbst, called for the full inclusion of recreational anglers in the design and management of marine protected areas. “As anglers are often the only eyes and ears in the MPAs, they can help identify potential conservation issues. They are not the problem, they are part of the solution” said Søren Gade. Isabel Carvalhais concluded that “the protection of biodiversity is more than just a desirable goal, it is an urgent necessity. Actions must be as much daring as feasible. All sectors must be involved, including recreational fisheries.”
Download the press release here.