Original publication: July 2016
Authors:BIPE: Etienne JOBARD, Stéphane RADUREAU, Pierre CAVE, Marie-Laetitia DES ROBERT
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Feasibility of Measuring Socio-Economic and Environmental Impacts of Recreational and Semi-Subsistence Fisheries in the EU

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The following study aims to recommend a methodological framework for the performance of studies assessing the impacts of marine recreational and subsistence fisheries on national economies and on the environment. The purpose of a methodological framework is to supply the European Parliament with common definitions, concepts, perimeters and impact assessment methodologies so that a more homogenous vision on marine recreational fishing activities on a European scale can be obtained.

To fulfill these objectives, the authors carried out a benchmark analysis by comparing five assessment studies in Europe. The studies were selected as being representative of the diverse European contexts on MRF: in terms on natural environments (different seas and oceans), legal context (national laws on MRF) and MRF practices.

The benchmark analyses and comparisons of all studies were carried out on the basis of their perimeters (geographic, definition of MRF, inputs and outputs), their data sources and assessment methodologies. For each dimension of the benchmark, operational recommendations were made according to a performance analysis of studies and their potential scaling-up of methodologies at a European level with respect to operational and quality objectives.



Marine recreational fishing (MRF) can be an important source of income for national economies. Total expenditure is believed to exceed €25 billion a year in Europe (according to Dillon B.), and the number of sea anglers is estimated to be 8-10 million in Europe, according to the EAA. These figures are currently the only available at a European scale, but the methodology used has not been described in details nor developed with the cooperation of competent member state cooperation. However, this first estimation shows the need for MRF actors and public authorities to provide an objective view on MRF activities and its impacts. This is one of the purposes of the Working Group on Recreational Fisheries (WGRF) established in 2009 within the ICES.

The ICES sat up a working group in 2009: the WGRFS (Working Group on Recreational Fisheries) helping ICES European countries to develop sampling programmes on marine recreational fisheries and supplying data and an estimate of its impacts and stocks. WGRFS discusses and develops national surveys to obtain reliable comparable data on marine recreational fishing both biological (harvests, releases, size/age structure of catches) and on the socio-economic dimension of marine recreational fishery.

ICES WGRFS Report 2015 main recommendations for future surveys under EU-MAP

Recreational fishing and subsistence fisheries in the EU are national competences unlike commercial fishing activities, which are a European Union competence. However, according to the answer of the Commission, Article 1(1)(a) of the Basic Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy (1) (CFP) mentions objectives in terms of conservation of marine biological resources and management of fisheries exploiting these resources.

Therefore, European conservation and management measures could also affect recreational fisheries, in this case national and European management of MRF should be evaluated impartially, with a common protocol assessing impacts of recreational fisheries on fish resources, in the terms of CFP objectives.

In this context, the ability to describe objectively recreational and subsistence marine fisheries and assess their impact on the environment, and more specifically fishing stocks, at a national level, is essential.

Ahead of considering policy issues regarding non-commercial fisheries, a thorough analysis of scientifically valid data is due. The asymmetric legal context of these two separated forms of fishery can be a source of conflict between recreational and subsistence fishermen and commercial fishermen, accentuated by two sources of competition:

  • A competition on fishing resources, the impact of MRF on stock not being assessed and the commercial fishing being controlled and managed through its impacts and state of fish stocks. This competition can take the form of a spatial competition on allocation or access to fishing areas and fish stocks.
  • A competition on the market. However, MRF and subsistence fishing are commonly defined as practices prohibiting the sale of catches; informal economy can take place, lowering the price of fish, directly affecting commercial fisher businesses.

These potential conflicts and the lack of management in MRF are particularly strong due to lacking information and evaluation on MRF, but also because of the absence of a common definition at the European level. Moreover, recreational marine fishing practices are extremely difficult to assess since recreational fishermen represent a very mobile and highly heterogeneous population.

The plethora of different national definitions and of environmental impact and socioeconomic role assessment methodologies make the aggregation of these on Union level extremely difficult.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/573-457

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