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EAA warns anglers could be ‘stigmatised’ by Euro ministers

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The European Anglers Alliance fears that the recreational fishing sector is being stigmatised.

The European Anglers Alliance (EAA) has today warned the European Council of Ministers that it runs the risk of ‘stigmatising’ recreational angling in the eyes of the public.

The EAA also raises concerns that if the Council ‘has its way’ angling will be treated as a ‘nuisance’ amongst fisheries sectors – and strongly reminds fisheries ministers that angling has a seriously positive impact on fish stocks.

The hard-hitting comments came as the European Parliament and the Council entered the last crucial round of talks on the Common Fisheries Policy reforms. They are contained in a press release titled “EU Common Fisheries Policy Reform – Recreational Angling Left Out In the Cold,” in which the EAA insists that the benefits of recreational fishing are explicitly mentioned in the CFP text.

In February, the European Parliament voted by 502 to 137 in favour of recreational fishing being included as an amendment in the policy document, a decision hailed as a landmark breakthrough by the EAA and EFTTA following a 10-year campaign.

The long-awaited recognition was seen as a clear acknowledgement by the European Parliament that the interests of the sportfishing community should be taken into account when agreeing legislation. Although the amendment had yet to come into law, sources close to the European Parliament and sympathetic to fishing did not anticipate further opposition.

The vital February amendment stated that ‘the CFP shall ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable in the long-term and are managed in a way that is consistent with the objectives of achieving economic, social and employment benefits, of contributing to the availability of food supplies and recreational fishing opportunities, and of allowing for processing industries and land-based activities directly linked to fishing activities, while taking into account the interests of both consumers and producers’.

However, the wording of the amendment has now been watered down to become effectively meaningless.

The EAA press release states: “So far the Council has been against this modest, positive inclusion of recreational fishing. Instead the Council has suggested making it explicit only that ‘recreational fisheries can have a significant impact on fish resources…’

“It is, of course, undeniable that recreational fishing has an impact on fish stocks. However, the seriousness of this impact should be measured against the fish stock itself, not against the desire of other stock exploiters for access to more fish.

“To put this into perspective: If recreational fishing was the only fish exploitation allowed in Europe, with no commercial fishing, then no fish stock in Europe would be in trouble today. The same cannot be said the other way around. Overall, recreational fishing is thought to be responsible for around 3% of the harvest versus the commercial and semi-commercial fishing [at] 97%.”

The press release continues: “To avoid recreational angling being stigmatised in public and within the CFP fisheries management policy for the wrong reasons, we must insist that some of the positives which recreational angling provides to society are explicitly mentioned ‘somewhere’ in the CFP text.

“Recreational angling in Europe creates and sustains more than 100,000 jobs – often in rural and remote areas – and generates economic activity worth several billion euros. Per fish exploited, recreational angling provides far more economic impact and jobs than any other fish-exploiting sector.

“This CFP reform aims at, among other things, boosting the aquaculture sector and positively discriminating in favour of the small scale fisheries sector. Both aims arguably will put the recreational fishing sector under pressure in some areas. It is vital that recreational fishing is recognised within the CFP for all its positives and not seen or treated as a nuisance among fisheries sectors, which could be the case if the Council has its way.”

The EAA is a pan-European NGO composed of key angling organisations from 14 European countries with approximately three million members. Further meetings on the issue are planned before the end of the month.

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