The European Commission and Member States have agreed that recreational angling should not be excluded by default from strictly protected areas after a set of criteria and guidance for the designation of protected and strictly protected areas was agreed.
The guidance highlights activities that are potentially compatible with the nature of strictly protected areas -- depending on their individual conservation objectives -- many of which are related to activities angling clubs and associations carry out such as habitat restoration, restocking, participation in scientific projects, etc.
As part of the roll-out of the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 (adopted in 2020) the European Commission had been working on defining criteria and guidelines for the designation of protected and strictly protected areas across Europe. According to the strategy, by 2030, the EU must achieve a coherent network of protected areas covering 30% of the EU (30% of land and 30% of the sea), of which one third should be under even stricter protection rules.
In one of the first versions of the criteria and guidance document, recreational angling had been put on the same footing as mining, characterised as ‘extractive activities’ which should not be allowed in strictly protected areas.
The final version text, which is a non-binding note meant to support Member States in fulfilling their political commitment, has not retained this blanket approach. Instead, the note defines strictly protected areas as “fully and legally protected areas designated to conserve and/or restore the integrity of biodiversity-rich natural areas with their underlying ecological structure and supporting natural environmental processes. Natural processes are therefore left essentially undisturbed from human pressures”. In practice, this means that “many strictly protected areas will be non-intervention areas, where only limited and well-controlled activities that either do not interfere with natural processes or enhance them will be allowed. Such activities may, in many cases, include scientific research, natural disaster prevention (e.g. wildfires), invasive alien species control, non-intrusive activities and installations, non-intrusive and strictly controlled recreational activities (…) Activities authorised in strictly protected areas should also include those that are necessary for the restoration of the natural values of the areas in question”.
This is very good news for anglers but also for the EU. As regularly and successfully highlighted by the European Anglers Alliance, through their monitoring, restoration, awareness-raising and scientific cooperation activities, anglers have a key role to play for the success of protected areas.
The next step will be for Member States to make pledges to reach the 30% and 10% targets, taking into account existing protected area networks and new designation needed.