“A Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) without input from recreational fisheries is like having a Member State in the EU with not voting rights”, a top level conference has been told. David Vertegaal, a Dutch member of the European Anglers Alliance (EAA) made the comment at the conference into the state of play of recreational fisheries in the EU, an event organised to facilitate an exchange of views between EU policy makers and the recreational fisheries sector, represented by the EAA and the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA).
The conference was arranged by the RecFishing Forum, to which EAA and EFTTA provide the secretariat. The president of the RecFishing Forum MEP Norica Nicolai has written a European Parliament report: 'The state of play of recreational fisheries in the EU'. A first draft was presented to the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries at the end of last year and it is expected to be adopted at a forthcoming Parliamentary plenary session. The conference was very timely in that it a few days later there was a deadline for tabling amendments to her report.
Nicolai co-chaired the meeting alongside fellow members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Werner Kuhn and Ole Christensen. It was opened by MEP Alain Cadec, chairman of the parliament’s Committee on Fisheries, a keen bass angler. He stressed the importance of the recreational fisheries sector in terms of business and jobs for those living in the coastal areas and beyond.
His words were echoed by Vertegaal and Jean-Claude Bel, CEO of EFTTA, who underlined the fact that there are more than 9 million European citizens fishing recreationally at sea, most of them anglers. Jean-Claude Bel’s presentation was named ‘Robust catch- and socio-economic data for management and for business’ and stated that the sector generates 100,000 jobs and €10.6 billion a year, as stated in a scientific report from last year paid by the European Parliament.
The conference was told that the lack of timely and comprehensive data on recreational fisheries remains a major issue. Robust information helps businesses to improve their market forecasts, production and marketing planning. For legislators, the lack of information translates to legislation that is adopted based on poor or even wrong information. It held up as an example the sudden ban on Northern sea bass catches as an outcome of 'managing in the dark'.
The EU policy-makers were also urged to include recreational fisheries in the CFP as a separate sector and on an equal footing with commercial fisheries and aquaculture. The inclusion of recreational fisheries would be beneficial to people, the economy and fish populations as it would contribute positively to sustainable management and exploitation of fish stocks, delegates heard.
The European Commission was represented by Evangelia Georgitsi, who said that Nicolai's report gave an 'accurate and useful' diagnosis of the state of recreational fisheries in the EU. She thanked for making recreational fisheries topical again and added that while the CFP only mentions the sector once, it is gaining more and more importance and attention from the policy makers.