Recreational fishing is one of the most popular leisure activities in coastal zones worldwide: it involves large numbers of people, and high levels of fishing effort. In Europe there are almost 9 million practitioners, who generate around €6 billion annually for regional economies. The sector is present all along the Mediterranean northern coasts – it’s easy to access a large number of potential sites where boat and spear fishers can operate.
The number of recreational fishers has been assessed in some locations (in MPAs in particular), but the overall number is still unknown. However, experts agree on the fact that the number of recreational fishers in the Mediterranean has reached a significant level. As an example, in the Balearic Islands the number of recreational fishing licences has quadrupled in the last 20 years.
Clearly, such an increase in fishing effort is likely to lead to increased catch volumes, which will have an impact on fish stocks and the protection of vulnerable species. According to rough EU estimates, recreational fishing could account for 10% of all fish production in the Mediterranean.
Distribution of marinas and potential recreational fishing zones in EU Mediterranean countries, including Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Due to the weak distinction between recreational fishers and small-scale fishers, the identification of port facilities exclusively or partially occupied for leisure activities is not yet possible in the other Mediterranean countries.
DEFINITION OF RECREATIONAL FISHERIES
EU Member States have not yet agreed on a common definition of marine recreational fisheries. The General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean define them as: “Fishing activities exploiting marine living aquatic resources for leisure or sport purposes from which it is prohibited to sell or trade the catches obtained”.
A clear, agreed Europe-wide definition of marine recreational fisheries is still needed for regulation and enforcement purposes. An appropriate definition should enable a clear distinction between different types of fishery, and the different methods of recreational fishing. The definition should extend across the whole Mediterranean basin, where subsistence issues are also very important in some areas.
The recommendations in this work apply to strictly recreational fisheries, and do not consider subsistence fisheries .
INTERACTIONS WITH MARINE PROTECTED AREAS
MPAs play a significant role in protecting fish communities and enhancing fish stocks within their designated boundaries. Their success thus makes them attractive to recreational fishers, who may expect higher yields inside and in the close vicinity of these areas.
The success of MPAs in attracting fishers and tourists can result in conflicts between sectors, involving recreational and professional fishers, suba divers and tour boats, among others, as well as harm to the marine environment. There is much debate over whether or not professional small-scale fishers and recreational fishers should be given equal rights to access an MPA and its resources.
Most multi-use MPAs in the region allow regulated recreational fisheries within their boundaries. However, recreational fishing, in all its forms, is considered to be an extractive activity and, therefore, is not always compatible with ecosystem and wilderness qualities protection.