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Researchers: We need to protect freshwater angling for its food value


Recreational fishing makes a major contribution towards keeping the world’s population healthy and fed.

That is the findings of a major global survey that shows angling is much more than a recreational activity – it makes an important contribution to diets in many regions of the world. This is shown by an international team of researchers that included Robert Arlinghaus, Professor for Intergrative Fisheries Management at the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology (IGB) and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

The researchers estimate that recreational fishing accounts for more than 11% of the reported harvest – fish caught for consumption – in inland fisheries worldwide.

This is especially the case in countries such as Canada, Poland, Argentina, Scandinavia and Germany. However, due to climate change and direct human impact on freshwater ecosystems, the productivity of important fish species like salmon and trout is declining, affecting the nutritional services offered by rivers and lakes.

“We have investigated the nutritional and economical importance of fish consumption from recreational fishing in 81 countries and refute the assumption that angling plays only a minor role in feeding the world’s population. On the contrary, for anglers, self-caught fish is an important contribution to self-sufficiency in protein and micronutrients,” said Professor Arlinghaus (pictured).

“Around 280 million anglers catch more than 1.3 million tons of freshwater fish a year. This means that recreational fishing contributes significantly to the total fish yield of inland fisheries worldwide. More precisely, 11.3% of the reported 11.15 million tons of freshwater fish are caught by anglers.

“However, these figures do not appear in global fishing statistics as recreational fishing is traditionally not recorded there. Yet recreational fishing is the dominant form of inland fishing in all industrialised countries today. In Germany alone, anglers take about ten times more fish from inland waters than commercial fisheries.”

Salmonid species like trout, salmon, perch, zander and walleye are popular among anglers worldwide. In Europe, carp and other related species like eels and catfish are also popular.

The monetary value

Worldwide, the total value of fish caught for personal consumption is estimated at US $9.95 billion based on local market prices. Countries leading the way include:

Canada: $2.74 billion

China: $2.57 billion

United States: $2.38 billion

Germany: $100m

The threat of climate change

Recreational fisheries are facing the challenges of climate change. Researchers identified Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark and Kenya as the countries with the highest sensitivity of fish species consumed in recreational fisheries. Looking at the countries which consume most fish, Canada and a number of European countries – including Germany – are among the most vulnerable.

“In addition to climate change, other environmental changes, such as the damning of rivers, also have a negative impact on the productivity of fish stocks,” said Professor Arlinghaus.

“Our findings highlight that the nutritional aspect of recreational fisheries should be fully integrated into the management of inland waters.

“Climate change, land and water use, river fragmentation and other large-scale influences are already dramatically changing global inland fisheries, including recreational fisheries. The consequences of declining fish stocks and their impact on nutrition should be taken into account, not the least because self-caught fish are among the most sustainable animal protein people can gather.”

He added that more data is needed to reduce the uncertainties and to investigate further issues. This includes possible health effects, such as the risks of ingesting toxins from self-caught fish.

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