Original publication: July 2017
Kieran HYDER, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), UK
Zachary RADFORD, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), UK
Raul PRELLEZO, AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain
Marc Simon WELTERSBACH, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, Germany
Wolf-Christian LEWIN, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, Germany
Lucia ZARAUZ, AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain
Keno FERTER, Institute of Marine Research, Norway
Jon RUIZ, AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain
Bryony TOWNHILL, Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (Cefas), UK
Estanis MUGERZA, AZTI-Tecnalia, Spain
Harry V. STREHLOW, Thünen Institute of Baltic Sea Fisheries, Germany
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Marine recreational and semi-subsistence fishing - its value and its impact on fish stocks

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Marine recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries could represent a significant source of fishing mortality, have impact on ecosystems, and interact with commercial fisheries and users of the marine environment. However, the evidence needed to manage these fisheries is often limited and difficult to collect, because of the large numbers of widely-distributed small fishing vessels and individuals on the shore, exploiting highly mixed fisheries using a variety of gear types. These challenges mean that significant components of fishing mortality are not well described, which may affect our ability to manage fisheries to achieve conservation targets. Moreover, marine recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries can have a high economic value, but this is not taken into account in management and allocation decisions within European fisheries management. The European Parliament Committee on Fisheries requested a study to evaluate the value and impact of recreational and semi-subsistence fishing within different regions of the EU and funded a consortium of Cefas, AZTI, and Thünen-OF to deliver the EURecFish project.

EURecFish examined the social benefits, economic value, and environmental impact of marine recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries in six marine regions of Europe. Five questions were addressed:
1. What is recreational and semi-subsistence fishing, and where do they occur?
2. What is the value of recreational and semi-subsistence fishing?
3. How much fish is caught by recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries and how does this compare to commercial fisheries?
4. What other impacts of recreational and semi-subsistence fishing exist?
5. What needs to be done in future to monitor, assess, and manage recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries?

Key outcomes

Marine Recreational Fisheries (MRF) was defined following the ICES WGRFS definition as “the capture or attempted capture of living aquatic resources mainly for leisure and/or personal consumption. This covers active fishing methods including line, spear, and hand– gathering and passive fishing methods including nets, traps, pots, and set–lines”. The main species and gears were categorised for each European country and licence requirements identified. Catches by MRF for certain species should be reported annually under the EU Data Collection Framework, but data are still limited especially in the Mediterranean and important recreational species are excluded. A recent synthesis and meta-analysis demonstrated the importance of MRF in Europe with 9 million people, or 1.6% of the population, participating, spending almost 6 billion euro, and fishing for around 77 million days each year. This excluded tourist fisheries, that could be significant in several countries (e.g. Norway).

It is possible to define semi-subsistence fishing in terms of a threshold of income either from sales of catch or as a proportion of the total income. However, there is no legal definition or an accepted cut-off for semi-subsistence, so this definition is very difficult to use practically. In fact, under EU legislation, any fishery where catches are sold is considered commercial, so covered under commercial management regimes. Conversely, where catches are not sold, this activity and its impact are generally monitored as recreational fisheries. Hence, it is likely that any data on semi-subsistence fishing will be collected within either commercial or recreational fisheries surveys, and not recorded separately. A literature review was done to identify any potential semi-subsistence fisheries in Europe. It was not possible to separate semi-subsistence from commercial or recreational fisheries, so the focus was to demonstrate this challenge in two case studies. The case studies identified were Croatia and Norway, which had either been captured under existing reporting structures (i.e. Norway) or transitioned to commercial (i.e. Croatia). It is possible that other examples occur, and there are many small vessels that could engage in this type of fishing, so it is important that these are identified by individual countries and included in sampling schemes (either commercial or recreational). Due to the lack of data, it was not possible to estimate the value or the impact of semi-subsistence fisheries.

An Input-Output approach was used to estimate the total economic impact, gross value added (GVA – the amount that contributes to the Gross Domestic Product) and the numbers of jobs (Full Time Equivalents – FTEs) supported by European marine recreational fisheries. The total economic activity supported by marine recreational fisheries was 10.5 billion euro that comprised of 5.1 (direct), 2.3 (indirect) and 3.2 (induced) billion euro expenditure. This supported almost 100,000 FTEs that included 57,000, 18,000 and 24,000 from direct, indirect and induced expenditure, respectively. The amount varied between sea regions with the North Sea being the largest overall contributor, followed by the North- Western Atlantic Waters, Mediterranean, South-Western Atlantic Waters and the Baltic Sea, and the lowest contribution from the Black Sea. On average, 49,000 euros supported one FTE, with the maximum in Denmark (62,909 euros) and the minimum in Estonia (18,979 euro). There were significant gaps in the data identified with an assessment of overall bias indicating that the estimates are likely to be below the real amount especially in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. The size of the economic impact of marine recreational fisheries within Europe is significant enough to consider the development of a common and stable economic data collection program. It should also lead to the implementation of marine recreational fisheries as a sector that is targeted for development alongside commercial fisheries and aquaculture in Europe.

The assessment of the impact of marine recreational fisheries on fish stocks was done using data collected under the European Union Data Collection Framework and surveys from other countries, with extrapolations made to countries or species where no data existed. Large levels of release are common in marine recreational fisheries, so estimates of catches were compiled that included both harvest and release mortality. Comparisons were made at a stock level with commercial catches, where the data allowed, for individual stocks of European sea bass, Atlantic cod, European eel, Atlantic mackerel, pollack, Atlantic salmon, sea trout and Atlantic bluefin tuna. For the stocks where reconstruction was possible, sea bass, salmon and pollack recreational catches represented between 30 and 40% of the total catch, cod and mackerel were less than 21%, and eel catches were variable (13-72% of landings). Hence, catches of fish by MRF can be significant and should be included in stock assessments to ensure sustainable management of fisheries in future. Reconstructions were not possible for the Mediterranean or Black Sea and many stocks in other regions as insufficient data were available. To assess the impact robustly, better data are needed both on catches and post-release mortality by MRF, with regular multispecies surveys proposed.

In addition to the removal of biomass from marine fish stocks, recreational fisheries can have other impacts on the marine environment, particularly in coastal habitats. Impacts occur at regional, national, and European scale, however, the level of impact as well as the associated effects are often unknown. The separation of marine recreational fisheriesinduced impacts from other sources of anthropogenic impacts is difficult. This needs disaggregation into industrial and/or user groups to develop meaningful policies. Impacts originating from marine recreational fisheries are still largely unstudied. To enable evidence-based decision-making, European studies in the marine environment are needed. A sustainable ecosystem-based management of marine recreational fisheries needs to match the temporal and spatial scale of both the marine environment affected and the recreational fishing effort.


Based on the analysis undertaken within the EURecFish project, ten recommendations have been compiled to support the development and understanding of marine recreational and semi-subsistence fisheries in Europe:
1. There is large variation in the understanding of marine recreational fisheries across Europe, generally with less data for Mediterranean and Black Seas countries, and limited time series. This makes any assessment of impact or value difficult, so there is a need for additional regular data collection.
2. A broad range of species are caught by marine recreational fisheries, yet mandatory data collection focusses on a small set of species. Further data collection is needed to develop understanding and should focus on country-specific multispecies surveys.
3. Tourist marine recreational fisheries can be large (e.g. Norway), but there is little knowledge of the benefits or impacts of this sector. More information is required to understand how these fisheries can be managed and developed in future.
4. Semi-subsistence fisheries should not be treated as a separate entity due to the challenges with definition, but individual countries should identify if they have any semi-subsistence fisheries and ensure that the current recreational or commercial fisheries sampling system covers these catches. In some cases, it may be necessary to set up additional sample frames to cover these data and develop approaches for management.
5. The potential total economic impact in Europe is significant, so marine recreational fisheries should become a sector that is targeted for development alongside commercial fisheries and aquaculture under the Common Fisheries Policy. However, data are lacking, so regular economic data collection is needed to monitor development and increase robustness of estimates.
6. The impact of changes in policy and management on the expenditure on marine recreational fisheries is very difficult to quantify and additional studies should be funded to develop these data, including studies of economic value and the human dimension.
7. Only the economic impact of direct expenditure was included in this study, but additional social and wellbeing benefits are provided by marine recreational fisheries that should be accounted for. It is unclear how this can be done, so additional studies should be funded to develop methods. 8. Estimates of discards and post-release mortality make comparison with commercial catches challenging. More information is needed on key marine recreational fisheries species to make more robust comparisons.
9. Where comparisons were possible, marine recreational fisheries catches represented a significant proportion of the total biomass removed for some stocks and could affect sustainability. Marine recreational fisheries catches should be routinely included in stock assessments, as this allows impacts to be properly assessed and appropriate management strategies developed.
10. Marine recreational fisheries can have other impacts on the marine environment, particularly in coastal habitats, but the level of impact as well as the associated effects are unknown. More information is needed to determine marine recreational fisheries-induced impacts and separate them from other anthropogenic impacts.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/601-996

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1 Comment

CASTEL · February 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm

I don’t agree with the fact that recreational catches for see bass represent between 30% and 40% of total see bass caught. Last year we were allowed to keep 1 bass a day. When i see the low level of see-bass ressource, i wonder who is able to catch 1 bass a day nowodays ? There is more and more catch an release in the recreational fisheries and last year i kept only 4 bass. The solution to evaluates the impact of recreationnal fisheries is to declare the sea-basses kept from recreational fishermen on an internet portal. Maybe there will be more realistics data.

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