Recreational fishing fosters thriving Marine Protected Areas

Monday 23 October 2017

Balance conservation with recreational activities which engages people in the stewardship of the marine environment – that was one key message given at a conference where experts discussed what role anglers can play in the sustainable management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the benefits that allowing their activities in these zones can provide.

The event, entitled “Marine Protected Areas and recreational fisheries: sustainable management and benefits”, was held in the European Parliament by the Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment, supported by the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA).

Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Ricardo Serrão Santos chaired the event which began with a presentation on the differing objectives of MPAs; such as allowing fish stocks to recover, protecting nursery areas, improving water quality by limiting the emission of pollutants or protecting fragile seabed habitats. Authorities then must manage these MPAs in order to achieve these objectives. European anglers (recreational fishers using rod and line) believe that MPAs should not be treated as closed natural reserves from which all human activities need to be banned and that access rules should be proportionate and appropriate with the different MPAs’ objectives. Allowing recreational fisheries and especially angling – a particularly selective and low-impact fishing method – in MPAs could provide ‘eyes and ears” in areas that are difficult to monitor, while delivering significant sustainable socio-economic benefits to coastal communities.


"To find the correct combination between protection of marine life and its sustainable use is a science that I really appreciate"

MEP Ricardo Serrão Santos


Researches presented during the event show that tourism, including recreational angling, increases incomes and jobs for several sectors and contributes to a greater engagement by the public. For example, increases in biodiversity based on the protection of nursery areas can generate positive spill-over effects benefiting the local communities by attracting more angling activities and economic activity. However, MPA performance is often undermined by the lack of governance and economic resources. It was also generally agreed that more research is needed to fully measure and understand the multiple benefits provided by MPAs.

In the USA, the benefits of granting access to recreational fishers in MPAs are well acknowledged and the rules applied on recreational fishing in MPAs depend on the purpose of the protected area. Multiple-use MPAs, which constitutes 88% of the US MPAs, provide protection of marine resources while supporting a wide range of sustainable uses. While commercial extraction may be restricted or even prohibited, recreational fishing and harvest is usually allowed. On top of bringing millions to the local economy and communities – as witnessed by the case of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in which 400,000 recreational fishers bring over $274 million/year –  recreational fishers become ocean stewards, teach the public how to care about the oceans and take part in conservation initiatives.

A roundtable discussion followed involving case-studies of recreational fisheries in MPAs. In general, the speakers agreed that allowing angling in MPAs is compatible with conservation goals. Moreover, anglers could help raising awareness about nature and water conservation measures and increase their acceptance. Umberto Delgado Rosa, from the Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission, stated that all stakeholders need to be involved in the definition of MPAs management plans. Recreational fisheries access should be regulated on a case by case basis and anglers should be considered as key stakeholders in MPAs, where they play a very valuable role.

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