An International Expert Consultation convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agreed today on the first global guidelines on responsible recreational fisheries. The Technical Guidelines, which will be brought to the attention of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), support sustainable recreational fisheries by translating the relevant provisions of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries into specific advice for sustainable recreational fisheries. They are directed at fisheries policy-makers and managers, other decision makers, NGOs, recreational fishers and other stakeholders and were prepared following calls from FAO member states for guidance on recreational fisheries as a rapidly rising form of use of wild fish populations.
In many regions of the world recreational fishing is an important leisure activity: about 10% of the population in industrialized areas fishes in their spare time and recreational fishers in these areas likely number over 140 million. However, given the lack of accurate information, especially from developing countries, this surely is an underestimate, and some experts have estimated that up 700 million people worldwide might engage in recreational fishing. Several million jobs depend on recreational fisheries as associated spending can add up to US$ billions annually. In some areas, the income and employment generated by recreational fisheries tops commercial fisheries or aquaculture. 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 guidelines cover all types of recreational fisheries (harvest-oriented angling, catch-and-release fishing) in all environments (marine, coastal and inland) and are global in scope. They highlight ways towards achieving sustainable fisheries using a range of tools and approaches in managing recreational fisheries. Aquatic stewardship is the overarching concept; other management approaches include the ecosystem and precautionary approaches and adaptive management.
The guidelines acknowledge and emphasize the immense benefits of recreational fisheries and their important contribution to maintaining aquatic biodiversity and conserving endangered species and aquatic ecosystems. While the interests of recreational fisheries should be considered in all decisions affecting aquatic ecosystems, potential impacts of recreational fisheries on aquatic ecosystems must also be addressed. Because aspects of recreational fisheries differ from commercial fisheries and aquaculture, a range of issues such as the potential for selective overexploitation, species introductions and stocking of waterbodies need to be dealt with differently.
The Expert Consultation, composed of 20 experts from academia, policy and NGOs, was hosted by the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries 5-6 August 2011. The Technical Guidelines will be published by FAO and available online.
*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.