EAA position on Recreational Angling in Marine Protected Areas
10 EAA opinions and recommendations on MPAs
- Concept & Access -
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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)
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
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
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
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
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.
For notes and references please download the position paper