Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institut für Agrar- und Gartenbauwissenschaften

Overcoming human obstacles to conservation of recreational fishery resources, with emphasis on central Europe

Recreational fisheries are the dominant or sole user of many coastal and most inland fish stocks in industrialized societies. Recreational angling can negatively affect fish populations, but appropriate management approaches to address these impacts are often lacking. Overall, privately-governed European recreational fisheries systems offer suitable conditions to reconcile resource use with resource conservation because access restriction is possible, decision-making structures are simple and management scales are small. This increases the hope that the race to fish may be less pronounced than in open-access commercial fisheries. To achieve harmony between use and conservation values, a thorough understanding of the human dimension is paramount, yet approaches including this are underrepresented in contemporary recreational fisheries science and management. Based on theoretical considerations, literature review and personal experiences, this paper presents key human obstacles to the reconciliation of recreational fishery resource use and resource conservation, with emphasis on private fishing rights regimes of central Europe. Nine obstacles are identified: (1) lack of social priority; (2) lack of integrated approaches; (3) lack of cooperative institutional linkages; (4) lack of systems thinking; (5) lack of research and monitoring; (6) lack of shared values and dominance of stereotyped perceptions; (7) lack of consideration for regional fish-angler dynamics; (8) lack of objective communication of scientific findings; and (9) lack of critical self-reflection among individual anglers. Potential solutions to overcome the identified constraints briefly discussed include: (1) evaluation of the socioeconomic benefits of angling; (2) rehabilitation of ecosystem structure and function on larger scales; (3) facilitation of structured cooperation between stakeholders and management units; (4) application of complex systems approach; (5) increased funding for long-term monitoring; (6) fostering of common values of different stakeholders; (7) active adaptive management of angling effort on regional scales; (8) intensified communication of research findings; and (9) conviction of anglers to meet personal targets by more restrictive regulations. Increasing research and management efforts related to the social component of recreational fisheries will improve reconciliation of resource use and resource conservation in traditional recreational fisheries management. It is a matter of societal values whether it is judged necessary to do so on a broader scale.