New Fisheries Rules provide opportunities and challenges to further assert the role of EU recreational fisheries – EAA President explains.

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04 Mar

Earlier this year, the European Commission published a revision of the Fisheries Control Regulation. Part of this is that Marine recreational anglers from 2026 will be expected to record catch data from their fishing trips records. European Anglers Alliance (EAA), led by President Fred Bloot, puts an emphasis in assessing the socio-economic value of recreational fishing. While the regulation primarily targets professionals, President Bloot and EAA nevertheless welcomes the mention of recreational fishing. The increased focus on recreational fishing can be seen as a shift, indicating policymakers' acknowledgment of its importance. The catchment reporting obligation, however, asks for increased collaboration and standardization among member states. Also, President Bloot stresses the importance of unity within EAA to effectively address common challenges. Nonetheless, EAA sees the reporting obligation as an opportunity to demonstrate the positive aspects of angling, contributing towards a positive sectoral outcome.


Earlier this year, the European Commission published a revision of the Fisheries Control Regulation. Part of this is that Marine recreational anglers from 2026 onwards will be expected to record catch data from their fishing trips records. This is due to draw a better picture of the sea angling catchments. European Anglers Alliance is committed to simultaneously map the socio-economic value of the sector.

The revision of the Control Regulation is intended to make fisheries in the European Union more sustainable and to trace catches from “net to plate”. This will be done by better monitoring fishing activities, intensifying controls, and tackling offenders. "The regulation focuses particularly on professional, commercial, fisheries, but what will be new is that recreational fishing is also explicitly mentioned," analyses Fred Bloot – EAA President. According to him, it is not surprising that the recreational fisheries sector is considered as well, as "in certain places, the number of fish caught by recreational anglers is quite significant, e.g. cod in the Baltic Sea. The impact of the recreational sector should be taken into account in the overall picture."


IMPORTANCE OF MAPPING RECREATIONAL FISHING’S SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT

As far as Bloot and EAA are concerned, this picture needs to be complete. "The recording of catches by anglers is fine in itself, but we should not have a trivial obligation of registration that only imposes restrictions, which would be a bad way forward." The EAA President sees opportunities in mapping the impact of recreational fisheries. "When collecting data, the socio-economic value of angling should be considered as well. Currently, it is not sufficiently clear what this impact is, as estimations are mostly used. Without reliable data one cannot properly make policy that does justice to the European Marine recreational fisheries sector.” In that regard, EAA is not alone as three EU advisory committees have indicated that recreational fishing deserves a place in the European Union’s Fisheries Policy. “We have done the necessary lobbying work for this,” says Bloot. “This so that commercial Fisheries don’t get first and we only get leftovers. There are examples that it can also be done differently. Look at the management of striped bass in the US and sea bass in Ireland - there, in terms of the large socio-economic contributions, the recreational fisheries sector is number one.”


PRELIMINARY SIGNALS OF CHANGE

The increased focus on the position of recreational fishing is a signal to Bloot that change is underway. "As EAA, we are working to highlight recreational fisheries among EU policymakers. Those efforts are part of a long process, but we are now seeing preliminary changes in policy. For example, EAA is joining when the EU advisory councils discuss with the European Commission the registration requirements." The fact that organizations as the recreational fisheries sector are being consulted is no more than logical. "For this project to succeed, our cooperation is essential. The European Commission is aware of this, putting recreational fisheries in a strong position.”

“As a sector, we want to use this position to gain socio-economic leverage. Not just registering catches, but also assessing the socio-economic added value of angling. As far as we are concerned, the registration system should be a win-win for both governmental bodies and the individual angler.” Bloot adds.


UNIFORMITY AND UNITY WITHIN EAA

As the decision to introduce a registration obligation has already been taken, the details have yet to be shaped. "Every EU Member State will be obliged to digitally provide certain basic data, but how they do this, is up to them," explains Bloot. In this respect, using the same standard is crucial. In terms of extraction, collecting catch data is not that exciting. It is however important that if other data - such as the expenditure of anglers - are included, they are entered in such a way that the socio-economic aspects are immediately clear. If we can present these in a crystal-clear way, this will obviously provide more room for recreational fishing." According to Bloot, this makes it more than ever important to maintain unity within the EAA. "We have to speak with one voice as sector, which means focussing on the bigger picture rather than putting the national interests first. This as a lot of policy is elaborated in Brussels."


TURNING OBLIGATIONS INTO OPPORTUNITIES FOR RECREATIONAL FISHING

As the text will come into force in 2 years, there is yet still a lot of work to be done before submitting data becomes obligatory. For instance, registration of Marine fishers, unity of data, enforcement and monitoring are all issues that are not yet being developed neither in the Netherlands nor elsewhere in Europe. Nonetheless, EAA President Bloot is already pointing out the cooperation of recreational anglers. "The exact elaboration has quite a few challenges and the implementation may still seem far away, but we as an industry are on ready to make things work. In doing so, it is important to seize the opportunities these obligations also offer. What may at first glance appear to be disadvantageous may in fact make great strides possible. In any case, as EAA we will do our utmost best to ensure that the overall picture is right and that – in the end - the angler is benefitting from the change."


Photo credits: Sportvisserij Nederland

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