EAA position on Recreational Angling in Marine Protected Areas

10 EAA opinions and recommendations on MPAs
- Concept & Access -

  1. Successful MPAs protect, conserve or restore the habitat or the species population(s) for which they are designated, as well as preserve and support sustainable activities and exploitations, like well managed recreational angling and tourism. Proper control and enforcement of an MPA is crucial for its success. 
  2. EAA supports MPAs for all the good reasons listed in the definition(s) of marine protected areas - in particular the protection of habitat which creates/restores ecosystems, increasing biodiversity and biomass, as well as MPAs for the protection of spawning aggregations and juvenile fish. 
  3. EAA strongly supports scientifically based management of our marine and freshwater resources, including MPAs. Anglers have a long tradition in cooperating with scientists, also with regard to protected areas. 
  4. EAA believes and promotes that the objectives for an MPA should include both environmental as well as societal objectives to achieve a win-win situation for conservation and recreational activities, which engage people in the stewardship of the marine environment. 
  5. EAA supports multi-use MPAs that take into account socio-economics and the needs of local communities. There is no need to ban all human activities in most MPAs. This will become clear when access and use rules are made proportionate and appropriate with the MPA’s objectives. 
  6. Existing MPAs are often zoned i.e. have one or more highly protected zones or hot spots, surrounded by other zones where certain activities are allowed. Recreational angling most often is allowed in all open zones while some low impact commercial fishing activities/gear can be allowed in the lesser protected zones. 
  7. EAA supports public access to marine and freshwater fishery resources for consumptive recreational activities where appropriate and under management systems for resource sustainability. EAA urges evidence to be provided of the impact of recreational sea angling (rod & line) on the objectives of any MPA before any management measures for recreational fishing are introduced. EAA urges, when management measures for the recreational fishing sector are discussed, that the recreational segments (rod & line, nets, pots, spears..) are discussed and addressed individually in their own right as these segments’ impact on the habitat and stocks are different, and the socio-economics generated vary considerably. 
  8. Less than one per cent of MPAs prohibit recreational angling. In fact, some MPAs have as a specific objective to preserve and support good recreational angling in the MPA area. Angling is very rarely a limiting factor in achieving favourable conservation status in Natura 2000 marine areas and other MPAs’ objectives. To the contrary, legal human presence in MPAs can help avoid or keep down illegal human presence and use of the MPA. 
  9. The recreational angling activity fits and supports very well UN and EU policies and strategies to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”; the EU’s “Blue Growth Strategy”, which brings together economic growth and sustainable ecosystems in one coherent policy; the “Initiative for the sustainable development of the blue economy in the western Mediterranean”, which has as one target “20% increase in off-season tourism”; in tandem with EU environment conservation policies and legislation like the NATURA 2000 network, and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 
  10. EAA recommends the US approach and model of designating MPAs which acknowledges the importance of recreational activities: “MPAs share conservation as a primary goal, but many were also established to encourage recreational uses”.

Marine Protected Area (MPA) - introduction

A Marine Protected Area (MPA) is a clearly defined zone in the sea which by some level of restriction protects living, non-living, cultural, and/or historic resources from harmful human impacts and environmental pollution. Besides protecting the respective marine ecosystem’s structure, function and integrity, MPAs also can support more sustainable fishery management. The EU Commission describes MPAs as: “a measure used across Europe’s seas for protecting vulnerable species and habitats… they are: 

  • geographically defined marine areas, whose 
  • primary and clearly stated objective is nature conservation 
  • and which are regulated and managed through legal or other effective means to achieve this objective.” 

Several MPA definitions have been formulated and applied in different conservation and management contexts. One definition with effect for EU and Member States is given by the Convention on Biological Diversity: "Any defined area within or adjacent to the marine environment, together with its overlying water and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by legislation or other effective means, including custom, with the effect that its marine and/or coastal biodiversity enjoys a higher level of protection than its surroundings." Under this convention the EU has committed to ensure the conservation of 10% of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. In 2017 the EU’s MPA total had reached ca. 7% (4). Work is continuing with a view to achieve 10 % coverage by 2020.

MPAs come in many shapes, sizes and formats 
In the EU the Marine Natura 2000 is the main driver of MPA designation. Very few of these and other kinds of MPAs are totally closed for human access or exploitation (less than 1%). Most often an MPA is arranged in a number of zones, which allow for access and use to varying degree (see for an example ‘Protected Marine Area of Porto Cesareo’ further below). The strictly protected zone(s) most often takes up only a small part of the MPA. Recreational angling by rod and line is almost always allowed in all MPA zones except from the strictly protected zone, if any. 

MPAs are very rarely ‘Marine Reserves’, (or ‘no take-zones’, or ‘no fishing zones’), though the two terms are often erroneously used as though they were interchangeable. ‘Marine Reserves’ are: “..places where wildlife and habitats are protected from extractive and depositional uses of the sea.” 

Angling in Marine Reserves 
It is worth noticing, that a study shows that even in Marine Reserves - the most restrictive kinds of MPAs - catch & release angling was “permitted with regulation in 2%” of the reserves. Also, angling volunteers often assist scientists in their field work, catching and tagging fish outside and inside MPAs / reserves. Some tagging projects would not be carried out without angling volunteers as the cost would be prohibitive. 

MPA networks in Europe 
MPAs are designated as single units but should contribute to networks of MPAs. Three main categories of MPAs exist in Europe's seas that contribute to networks of MPAs: 1. sites designated under EU’s NATURA 2000 legislation (SACs and SPAs), 2. sites designated under national measures, 3. MPAs under the legally non-binding Regional Sea Conventions (RSC) i.e. HELCOM (Baltic Sea), OSPAR (North-east Atlantic Ocean), the Barcelona Convention (Mediterranean Sea) and the Bucharest Convention (Black Sea).

EU and Member States - some important legislation

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Under the convention the EU has committed to ensure the conservation of 10% of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. 

EU’s main MPA driver: the ’Marine Natura 2000’: The Natura 2000 network’s aim is to ensure the longterm survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats, listed under both the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. The network covers ca. 18% of the EU land mass and 7% of EU’s marine area. 

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD): The directive requires Member States to adopt ‘Programmes of Measures’ to achieve good environmental status in their marine waters by 2020, and “contributing to coherent and representative networks of marine protected areas”. 

Progress to be assessed in 2019: The progress made in establishing MPAs in Europe will be assessed in 2019 when the Commission evaluates the first cycle of the implementation of the MSFD. “..it should be possible to meet the objectives set out in EU and international law and policies, and increase MPA coverage above 10% by 2020 in Europe.” 

Some other MPA supporting legislation and policies: Without going into any detail, a number of provisions in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) shall or can be used as supportive for MPA designation, management and enforcement. See for an example Article 11 ‘Conservation measures necessary for compliance with obligations under Union environmental legislation’.

National MPA Approach - fisheries management

The German approach – critics

EAA and its German member DAFV have critisised the German closure for angling in large parts of the German MPAs in the Western Baltic Sea and the North Sea for being ’overprotective’ and not to have proper scientific justification for these closures. 

The Danish approach – a good example

EAA would like to encourage other EU Member States to take notice of the Danish approach, which seeks to preserve low impact fishing wherever appropriate. 

97 designated Natura 2000 marine sites 

The 97 sites cover ca. 18% of the Danish marine area. Fisheries management measures are implemented continuously towards 2020, based on scientific advice and stakeholder consultations. 

The authorities follow a thematic approach

The approach gives first priority to vulnerable habitats, which would suffer irreparable damage if fisheries were not regulated e.g. bottom trawling. Recently, a number of reef sites have been protected against the use of certain fishing gear with effect from 1 January 2018. Angling is allowed in all of them but not on or near the few so-called ‘bubbling-reefs’ [‘cold seeps’] in Kattegat and Skagerrak.

MPA networks in EU waters

The map shows the percentage MPA coverage in Europe's regional seas.
It also shows the distance to the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi target 11 of 10 % coverage.

Control & Enforcement - a common theme

Lack of control and enforcement in MPAs

Poor monitoring and enforcement is a common theme. The further from shore an MPA is located the harder it is to monitor and enforce. Globally, most MPA area is located in the high seas, far from shore. However, lack of control and enforcement is also an issue in waters closer to shore. Poorly controlled MPAs will attract poachers, who can save time and effort fishing in these areas. The performance of MPAs is strongly correlated to staff and financial capacity to enforce their management. Targets, objectives and control require budgets and staff. 

In this regard it is worth having in mind, that small fishing vessels enjoy many exemptions / loopholes in the present EU legislation. Vessels under 12 metres long are not required to record their fishing activities, and it is not easy to follow their movements as they are exempt from the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), too. Tracking should be mandatory, in particular for the protection of MPAs. 

The European Court of Auditors recommends: (a) the removal of the VMS exemptions for vessels between 12 and 15 metres long; (b) the requirement for the installation of smaller and cheaper localisation systems for vessels under 12 metres long. This and other recommendations by the Court of Auditors should be legislated. Recreational fishing presence in MPAs can deliver benefits in terms of policing by users -- the ‘eyes and ears’ – of the MPA and intelligence gathering which facilitates effective enforcement.

Many designated MPAs lack proper control and enforcement. EAA’s firm conviction is that human presence and sustainable activities in MPAs alleviate to some extent the widespread lack of proper control and enforcement by bringing eyes and ears into the area. Recreational angling is one such sustainable activity, which should be appreciated and welcomed in as many MPAs as possible. Anglers have a long tradition in cooperating with scientists about fisheries management and conservation matters.

Benefits of Recreational Angling in MPAs - Economical and Societal

Angling tourists - and angling for tourists: Many tourists spend a half or a full day fishing. Some tourists travel with the sole purpose to go fishing for a number of days. Families with one or more ’mad anglers’ often choose tourist destinations, which can offer good fishing as well as ’traditional’ beach or city vacation. 

Easy access to fishing spots and good fishing opportunities are valuable assets for the marine communities, to attract more tourists in and outside the sun-and-beach tourism season. 

Benefits of single MPAs or networks of MPAs to recreational sea angling can accrue by an increase in stock and size of fish species. A well-managed MPA, with plenty of sizeable fish, would attract anglers from all over the world. A well-managed MPA is also attractive to divers, sightseeing- and Eco tourists.

An MPA alone, or even a network of MPAs, cannot provide full protection for a number of highly migratory species, which move in and out of international and national waters. Therefore, fisheries management tools in addition to or other than MPAs are in place and will still be needed to secure sustainable fishing for these species. For the same reason, in many cases recreational angling for highly migratory species can also be allowed inside MPAs when proper recreational fisheries management measures are put in place as is the case for Bluefin tuna for which anglers are required to obtain a fishing permission and to report of any catch landed. 

Seizing the benefits of angling in MPAs: Marketing people will appreciate that anglers’ motivation factors are multiple. Angling is sought by both solitary spirits as well as those who wish to spend time on an activity in common with family or friends. All ages, across generations can participate together. Angling is healthy in many ways, physically and psychologically

Recfishing Forum Conference: Marine Protected Areas and recreational fisheries - sustainable management and benefits

The conference was held at the European Parliament on the 9th of October 2017. Please visit this page for agenda, report and presentations about recreational angling in MPAs.

February 2018 

For notes and references please download the position paper


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