Experts agreed on first international guidelines on responsible recreational fisheries

August 2, 2011 16:10
An International Expert Consultation composed of 20 experts from academia, policy and NGOs, convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), agreed on the first international guidelines on responsible recreational fisheries. These Technical Guidelines, to be brought to the attention of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), support sustainable recreational fisheries in context of the implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct of Responsible Fisheries, were prepared following calls from FAO member states for guidance on recreational fisheries as a rapidly rising form of use of wild fish populations, reports with reference to FAO.

In many regions of the world recreational fishing is an important leisure activity: about 10% of the global population fishes in their spare time, and recreational fishers likely number over 140 million worldwide. Several million jobs depend on recreational fisheries as related costs add up to US$billions annually. In some regions, the income and employment generated by recreational fisheries is higher than for commercial fisheries or aquaculture, and the interaction among various fishing sectors is usally intensive as recreational fisheries demand stocking material or co-exploit fisheries, e.g. Atlantic cod. Recreational fishing* now constitutes the dominant use of wild fish stocks in all freshwaters of industrialized countries, and in many coastal ones. Its importance is rapidly increasing in many economies in transition.

The technical guidelines on recreational fisheries developed through an international consultative process translate the relevant provisions of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries into specific advice for sustainable recreational fisheries and are directed at fisheries policy-makers, fisheries managers, other decision makers, NGOs and recreational fishers and other stakeholders.

The guidelines cover all types of recreational fisheries (e.g. harvest-oriented angling, total catch-and-release fishing) in all environments (marine, coastal and inland) and are global in scope. Aquatic stewardship serves as an overarching concept needed to achieve sustainable recreational fisheries on a global scale. Other major management approaches include the ecosystem approach, the precautionary approach and adaptive management using structured decision-making based on quantifiable management objectives.

The guidelines acknowledge and specifically emphasize the immense benefits of recreational fisheries and the important contribution of recreational fishers to maintaining aquatic biodiversity and in terms of conservation of endangered species, their habitats and aquatic ecosystems in general. Therefore, the interests of recreational fisheries should be considered in all decisions affecting aquatic ecosystems. At the same time, the potential impacts of recreational fisheries on aquatic ecosystems must be addressed. The guidelines look at real or likely damage induced by non- or badly-managed recreational fisheries to fish stocks, biodiversity and the aquatic environment. Because the objectives of recreational fisheries, as well as other socio-economic and governance aspects, differ from those in commercial fisheries and the aquaculture sectors, a range of issues such as the potential for selective overexploitation, species introductions and stocking of waterbodies must be dealt with differently. The guidelines highlight various pathways towards sustainable fisheries using a range of tools and approaches in managing recreational fisheries.

*Recreational fishing is defined as fishing for reasons other than to satisfy essential nutritional needs and where fishing products are generally not sold or otherwise traded on markets.

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