Recreational fishing and marine pollution
Historically, fisheries management of the marine environment has basically focused on professional fishing in its different modalities. Thus, recreational fishing has usually been considered a more marginal activity that did not have a significant impact on resources, due to the use of less efficient fishing systems. Starting in the 90s, the real impacts of recreational fishing began to be evaluated in the United Kingdom and France, and later in the Balearic Islands and Australia, where it was observed that recreational hook fishing could have important effects on the biology of the exploited species and that could represent an important part of the total volume of captured specimens. For example, in a study carried out by Font & Lloret in 2010, they observed that in the Cap de Creus Natural Park, the volume of catches by recreational fishing represented approximately 50% of the total catches of artisanal fishing in the same area.
Impact of recreational fishing in marine ecosystems
Recreational fishing, as an extractive activity, entails a series of impacts that must be taken into account in the management of space and resources. These impacts can be direct, when they occur directly on the target species (for example, they can generate pressure on fishing resources and/or vulnerable species, they can affect the reproductive potential of some species, etc.), and indirect, derived from the fishing activity and that affect other components of the ecosystem (for example, the use of invasive species as bait or the impact that abandoned fishing gear generates on the ecosystem), and it is the latter that we want to talk about today.
During recreational fishing, it is easy for the lines (with lead, hooks and line) to get wrapped in rock or coralline bottoms, generating significant accumulations of slowly degrading toxic materials (a fishing line takes around 600 years to decompose) and causing damage to the fragile organisms that live in these areas (e.g. “strangulation” of corals and gorgonians). The impact of abandoned leads also generates a considerable environmental impact, since during its dissolution it releases pollutants causing serious toxicological problems when this lead is assimilated by living organisms. Sportfishing lines abandoned in coastal areas, in addition to contamination, also represent a danger to seabirds and to the users themselves.
Recommendations and good practices for recreational fishing
Therefore, if you are a recreational fisherman from the coast, we recommend that you follow a series of good practices:
- Try to use more environmentally friendly alternatives to leads by using stone or metal weights from alloys that do not contain lead.
- Use hooks made of oxidizable materials (if they are lost or cast, they will degrade beforehand).
- If you do buoy fishing, use wooden or cork buoys (avoid plastic).
- Many artificial baits also contain lead (jigs) and can have the same negative repercussions on the environment.
- Pick up the line quickly to avoid castling.
- If you fish from rock, do not step on the organisms above and below the waterline.
- Do not fish near bird nests.
- Collect all the waste you have generated when you leave.
For more information on the code of responsible recreational fishing, you can visit the following link: