Two thousand recreational fishermen in Belgian marine waters account for 1% of the total catch | Flanders Marine Institute

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Two thousand recreational fishermen in Belgian marine waters account for 1% of the total catch

Ostend, Belgium (2018.06.02) - An estimated 2000 recreational fishermen landed 213 tonnes of fishery products from the Belgian part of the North Sea last year. This landing volume represents only 1% of the total commercial and recreational landings. All in all, the recreational sector is good for a direct expenditure of 5 million EUR.

Press release by: Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO)

For the first time the recreational sea fishing sector has been mapped along the Belgian coast. Research carried out by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and the Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Food Research (ILVO), in close collaboration with the recreational fishermen themselves, has in recent years contributed to more knowledge about the size, catches and economic value of the recreational fishing sector in the country.

A first estimate shows that the recreational sea fishing community counts about 2000 people. Half, or more than 1000 people, fish with the fishing rod from vessels. The other half consists mainly of bottom trawling fishermen, anglers from the beach or dam, and shrimpers from the beach, each of which accounts for some 200-250 people.

In 2017, according to our calculations, all recreational fishermen together landed 212.6 tonnes of fishery products from the Belgian part of the North Sea. This represents only 1% of the total known commercial and recreational landings. The relative share of recreational fishing varies greatly from species to species. For example, the recreational landings of sole represents barely 0.5% (10.6 tonnes) of the total. For cod (27.6 tonnes) and shrimp (79.1 tonnes) this amounts to 3.7% and 9.6% respectively. The 'total catch' (including both discards and landed fish) by the  sector lies higher, because fish is discarded. Especially for sea bass this discard is high (cf. EU measure) and amounts, according to the reports from the fishermen, 87%. In cod, 4% of the total catch is discarded. For the other species, only relative proportions are available on number of pieces and no weight estimates are available.

The direct expenditure of the recreational sea fishermen was estimated based on interviews. In total, this sector accounts for a direct expenditure of approximately 5 million EUR. This includes the purchase or rental of vessels, the purchase of fishing equipment, nets, clothes, to the purchase of bait and fuel. The true economic impact is undoubtedly larger  because the indirect values and the multiplier effect are not included in the calculations. These include the strong attraction of tourists to horse fishing and shrimpers on the beach, and job creation.

"These figures for 2017 are a first estimate of the Belgian recreational fishing sector," says VLIZ researcher Thomas Verleye. "For the first time, we know the size of the sector and how the catches relate to the catches of commercial vessels." The collection of these data is a European obligation. "The data can now be combined with these of commercial catches, so that fish populations can be assessed and managed more accurately", explains Frankwin Van Winsen, researcher at ILVO. The recreational fishing sector also benefits from the publication of these figures, because previously there were assumptions that anglers would probably catch more than the rough estimates that were made before. "A good estimate of the size and impact of the recreational fishing activities can now form the basis of a 'tailor-made' regulation for the sector, tuned to reality," says Daniel Wintein, a recreational fisherman who participated in the research. He was certainly not the only angler in this study where 259 fishermen participated voluntarily. The unique and thorough collaboration between scientists and anglers was the key to success within this study.

Press contacts

Greet Riebbels - press officicer ILVO | +32-(0)-486-26 00 14

Jan Seys - press officicer VLIZ | +32-(0)478-37 64 13

Extra materials

Video material and photographs about this research are available via the ftp server of ILVO (link remains valid until 6 June).

More information on the Recreational Sea Fisheries project can be found on the website (in Dutch only).