When it comes to sustainable fishing and conservation policy, the impact of the 220m recreational fishers worldwide has been largely ignored. This is despite the fact that in inland waters, for example, recreational anglers are now the predominant users of wild fish stocks.
Now an international team of fisheries scientists, economists, sociologists and ecologists led by Robert Arlinghaus from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) has developed a five-point plan to bring about necessary reform.
“Even countries with strong governance for fisheries fail to integrate angling into their fisheries and conservation management system effectively,” commented Arlinghaus. “We are convinced that fisheries management and conservation measures would be more effective if the interests of anglers were given equal consideration to those of commercial fishers and other stakeholders.”
The five-point plan
- Explicitly integrate angling targets into aquatic ecosystem and fisheries management
Sustainable management in the fisheries sector requires taking into account objectives specific to recreational fisheries, which differ considerably to those of commercial fisheries.
- Establish angler organisations and involve them in fisheries management
In central Europe, most anglers belong to a club or an association. In the rest of the world, however, this is rarely the case. The establishment and involvement of angler organisations in practical fisheries management represent key components towards future-oriented fisheries and aquatic ecosystem management.
- Permit variable management approaches, and implement them at the local level
A single fishery typically cannot satisfy the often conflicting objectives of a heterogeneous group of recreational fishers. As a consequence, standard tools, such as minimum-size measures and other harvest regulations applicable to all waters in a particular region are problematic. However, provisions and rules tailored towards local needs call for a degree of decision-making sovereignty on the part of anglers and other managers.
- Use the right tools
All anglers use a common pool resource, which may also be depleted by their activities. Many stocks are under high harvest pressure due to both professional fishers and anglers. Non-fishing factors such as river engineering and climate change also have a negative impact on fish productivity, which reduces even further some stocks’ resilience to fisheries. Under such circumstances, unpopular management strategies such as access restrictions or individually costly harvest tags are more appropriate than continuing to release annual licences permitting a theoretically unlimited number of anglers and individually unlimited landings.
All these measures are only of any use if the most important stocks and waters are periodically assessed. The provision of high-quality, compelling data is ultimately also the responsibility of anglers. Only then can gradual overfishing be prevented, and management targets and strategies adapted, where needed. New technologies such as smartphone apps enable catches to be monitored and other data from and about anglers to be captured almost in real time.