The head of the body that represents the fishing tackle trade in Europe has pledged to ensure that anglers have access to the region’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Olivier Portrat, CEO of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA), was speaking following a webinar this week which discussed the role that recreational angling can play in achieving the aims of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. That strategy contains ambitious targets for the implementation of MPAs to protect a minimum of 30% of the region’s sea area by 2030. At least a third – 10% – must be strictly protected.
Portrat said: “The big problem currently is that it is not known if anglers will have access to these areas. I intend to invest a lot of time into making these MPAs open to anglers.
“This is one of the reasons why I initiated the webinar. At the meeting I underlined that anglers do not need to kill fish in order to enjoy our nature experience within MPAs. We are happy to accept size limits, bag limits and catch and release in order to fish within these areas. We are also happy to offer monitoring and control of these MPAs for free. Angling tourism within these areas will also augment the acceptance of MPAs by the local population which will, in the long-term, among others, reduce the risks of poaching and pollution.”
The meeting was organised by the European Parliament Forum on Recreational Fisheries and Aquatic Environment (RecFishing Forum) and co-chaired by two MEPs. A keynote speech was delivered by video message from the Portuguese Minister of the Sea, Ricardo Serräo Santos. He underlined that recreational fishermen are a powerful group of stakeholders who support and contribute to conservation objectives. “Many anglers are involved in the conservation of aquatic species and the habitats they depend upon,” he said. “Responsible practices and the engagement of society in conservation initiatives benefit local communities by attracting economic activity and generating positive spins-offs throughout many sectors.”
MEPs Isabel Carvalhais, Soren Gade and the Chair of the RecFishing Forum, Niclas Herbst, called for the full inclusion of recreational anglers in the design and management of MPAs. Gade described anglers as the ‘eyes and ears’ in MPAs. He added: “They can help identify potential conservation issues. They are not the problem – they are part of the solution.“