The contribution of recreational fisheries

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Conference on biodiversity protection and restoration, EU Parliament Brussels


On 30 November, a European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment event co-Chaired by MEP Niclas Herbst and MEP Soraya Rodriguez Ramos brought light on the diverse initiatives carried out by the Recreational Fisheries sector, considering the upcoming discussions on the Nature Restoration Law (NRL).

The NRL aims at translating the declarative EU Biodiversity Strategy targets into compulsory objectives for the EU member states’ authorities. MEP Niclas Herbst, Chair of the EP RecFishing Forum, noted that“anglers are essential not only to monitor fish populations but also to maintain biodiversity. The best thing we can do as decision-makers is to help them in their fight against biodiversity loss and urging Member States to reduce river fragmentation. Otherwise, the objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy won’t be achieved”.  Indeed, the EU recreational fisheries sector supports the inclusion of more ambitious goals for the protection and restoration of rivers and marine ecosystems.

"Angling is more than just catching and killing fish, it’s also about taking responsibility for ensuring that there are fish for future generations. That's why we restore rivers, remove obstacles and plant eelgrass in marine environments. Anglers also massively collect wastes [...] 12,000 kilos were collected by angling clubs in Germany in just one year" said Kaare Manniche Ebert, Fisheries Biologist at the Danish Sportfishing Association and member of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA). The involvement of younger generations in these habitats’ restoration projects is furthermore key for the future of aquatic ecosystems.

The fishing tackle sector is also committed to the very same objective: “Without fish, there is no business. Therefore, it is only natural that our companies commit to nature restoration projects” said Oliver Portrat, CEO of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA). Ross Honey, Managing Director, Angling Spirit (EFTTA) also recalled the efforts that the Manufacturers and Wholesalers of fishing equipment are doing to reduce the use of plastics and chemicals in their products.

The NRL will define protected and strictly protected areas, in which human presence will be restricted. However, anglers should be encouraged to be on the ground and help authorities protecting aquatic biodiversity. The new obligations that will be introduced by the law will oblige the EU Member States to engage in habitats recovery projects, but the voluntary work carried out by anglers represents massive costs that Member States would have to cover if they prevented them from accessing protected areas. In addition, Professor Robert Britton from Bournemouth University (UK) underlined the usefulness of recreational fishers in the conservation of marine species. Anglers have been crucial in alerting scientists and authorities since decades about the status of fish species through citizen science.

Bettina Doeser, representative from the European Commission in charge of the Nature Restoration Law appreciated how recreational fishermen understood the essence of the Commission’s proposal, which is not only to protect biodiversity but also to create the conditions for its restoration.

“It was proven that voluntary targets for nature restoration are not enough […]. We need to act now! EU maritime environment and freshwater ecosystems are in a degraded state. […] Many fish cannot find place to reproduce, especially when dams block their migratory routes, for instance.” MEP Soraya Rodriguez Ramos, shadow rapporteur for Renew Europe in the Committee on Environment concluded.

The Nature Restoration Law proposal will be discussed in the European Parliament and the European Council of Member States for several months. The recreational fisheries sector will continue working in Brussels with the MEPs and some allies such as the Living Rivers Europe coalition to include much needed measures for the protection of fish and their environment.