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Beleidsinformerende Nota: Recreatieve zeevisserij in het Belgisch deel van de Noordzee: Een continue meerjaarlijkse datareeks van 2017 tot 2021
Verleye, T.J.; Lanssens, T.; Dauwe, S.; Torreele, E. (2022). Beleidsinformerende Nota: Recreatieve zeevisserij in het Belgisch deel van de Noordzee: Een continue meerjaarlijkse datareeks van 2017 tot 2021. VLIZ Beleidsinformerende Nota's, 2022_002. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. 48 pp. https://dx.doi.org/10.48470/29
Part of: VLIZ Beleidsinformerende Nota's. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. ISSN 2295-7464, more
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Abstract
    The results of this report (period 2017-2021) are based on the integration of numerous scientific field observations and 6,123 catch diaries, collected through the voluntary reporting by marine recreational anglers. This valuable data set demonstrates the importance of cooperation between citizens and science. The local nature of marine recreational fisheries means that this fine-grained data can contribute to the national evaluation of environmental and fisheries-related policies. In addition, the strict spatial delimitation of the programme (i.e. the Belgian part of the North Sea) means that marine recreational fisheries data can serve as an early warning when worrying local trends are observed that are not (yet) reflected in the general North Sea figures.The biggest challenge in the programme is the continuity of the involvement of marine recreational fishermen. Despite the fact that data collection supports the interests of the sector, the number of diaries received on an annual basis dropped to just under 700, whereas in 2017 this was still over 2,000. A stabilisation occurred over the last two or three years, with even a limited increase in the last year. In general, angling boats accounted for the bulk of the fishing effort. Annually, the 8,000 boat movements provided more than 100,000 fishing hours (on an individual level), the majority of which took place within the 3 nautical miles off the coast (73%). With the exception of passive beach fishing (60,000 fishing hours), the other techniques ranged between 15,000 and 35,000 fishing hours on an annual basis. Total fishing activity resulted in an average catch of 1.3 million fish (excluding shrimp) per year, of which about half were kept for consumption (45- 53%). Overall discarding of fish that meets the minimum size was limited to 4-11%, indicating that marine recreational fisheries from a catch and release perspective is currently low. The total recreational landings of fishery products (including shrimp) have fluctuated between 185.7 (2020) and 265.8 tonnes (2018) over the past five years, accounting for an average of 4.5% of the total landings of fishery products (commercial and recreational) from the Belgian part of the North Sea. The main species in terms of annual recreational landing volumes wereshrimp (20-41%), whiting (18-22%), dab (11-20%), sole (5-12%), mackerel (3-25%), cod (3-11%) and sea bass (1-10%). The decrease in recreational catches in 2020 can (partly) be attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown period, resulting in reduced landings of shrimp, flounder, cod, dab and whiting. Remarkably, a high mackerel catch by recreational boat anglers in the summer of 2020 largely compensated for the losses in the total recreational fish catch (excluding shrimp).One species, whose stock recovery is planned for the past seven years with the help of European measures, is sea bass. Although recreational landings of sea bass have increased by more than a factor 10 in the studied period (2018: 1.5 tonnes / 2021: 21.6 tonnes), this is not reflected in the number of fish caught (stable). Consequently, the trend in the landed volumes of sea bass is not a suitable indicator to estimate the stock dynamics. The increased landings from 2019 onwards can be largely attributed to the simultaneous relaxation of the European measures concerning the bag limit and the mandatory catch and release periods. In addition, the increasing landings seem to be reinforced by a steady increase in catches of bigger fish (≥42 cm), especially among beach anglers. For example, the average length of sea bass caught by beach anglers has increased by 29% over the past five years. It can therefore be concluded that the stock size in the Belgian part of the North Sea seems to remain somewhat stable, but that there has been a noticeable shift towards larger specimens over the past five years. The main concerns of recent years are and remain cod and eel. For cod, whose catches are almost entirely attributable to boat anglers, recreational fishing data for the period 2006-2018 already indicated a 90% reduction in catches in Belgian marine waters (Verleye et al. 2019). The current data indicate an additional decline of 80% in recreational catch between 2018 (27.9 tonnes) and 2019 (5.8 tonnes). Since 2019, catches have remained somewhat stable, but at low levels. However, the sporadically caught cod in 2021 seem to be on average slightly larger (+5 cm) compared to the specimens of some three to four years ago. Similarly, for eel, the decline between 1982-2016 (-99%) (Verleye et al. 2019) continued in the period 2017-2019 (-80%), after which catches also stabilised at an extremely low level.Sole is one of the main recreational target species and is the most important species in terms of commercial landing value for the Belgian fishing fleet. A recent project (Pulsvisserij Vlaamse Kust deel 1) pointed out the local decline of sole since 2010, contrary to the general trend at North Sea level. It remains to be seen whether sole will recover locally after the ban on (Dutch) pulse fishing since mid 2019. However, after a stable period between 2018-2020 (21.0-25.0 tonnes), recreational landings of sole dropped remarkably by 50% in 2021 (10.5 tonnes), a reduction that is reflected in all fishing techniques. It remains to be seen whether this negative trend will continue in 2022. The disappearance of pulse fishing however does not necessarily mean a reduction in fishing effort, as Dutch vessels are now showing an increasing interest in flyshoot fishing.

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