The ICES Working Group on Recreational Fisheries Surveys (WGRFS) role is to summarise and quality assure recreational fishery data collected under the EU Data Collection Framework (DCF-EC 199/2008 and 2010/93/EU) and control regulations (EC 1224/2009), and provide advice for ICES on recreational fishing issues. In 2016, 25 scientists from 16 countries attended the WGRFS with the aim to: share and evaluate current national surveys; characterise and understand recreational fishing in the Mediterranean; assess spearfishing activity; investigate the potential for regionaliza-tion; provide feedback on EU-MAP proposals; and look at the inclusion of recreation-al data in stock assessments including post-release mortality and reconstruction of time-series. The term of reference and agenda for the working group are provided in Section 1.
WGRFS compiled and assessed the quality of recreational harvest and release data collected within Europe for use in stock assessment (Section 2). These are summa-rized by country for four major sea areas and species (European sea bass, cod, sharks, salmon, eels, and tuna) defined under DCF and control regulations. A summary of the experience of surveys in Australia was provided and the potential for the use of SmartPhone apps to augment traditional monitoring and develop novel scientific understanding was discussed. The potential of SmartPhone apps was felt to merit further investigation, especially comparisons between apps and traditional surveys.
Recreational fisheries in the Mediterranean are complex with multiplatform multi-species fisheries and there is a lack of data available to assess the participation, catch or value of these fisheries. As a result, a mini-workshop was held to understand the current state of understanding of marine recreational fisheries in the Mediterranean and make recommendations of how to address some of the challenges (Section 3). The challenges included: management conflicts between sectors, recognition of the diversity, issues with the regulatory frameworks, paucity of data, financial support, and stakeholder engagement. As a first step, the WGRFS felt that pilot studies are needed that provide baseline data for recreational fisheries, and should be done un-der the EU-MAP.
Recreational fishing surveys are difficult to conduct and methods are complex, so the quality and validity of surveys was investigated (Section 4). The quality of national recreational catch sampling schemes in Poland and the UK were evaluated using the WGRFS Quality Assessment Tool. Further the regional catch sampling approach for western Baltic cod was assessed focusing particularly on Denmark. The schemes for the Baltic and UK were adequate quality, but more work was required to make the Polish survey more robust.
The use of recreational fishing catches in stock assessment for Baltic cod and Europe-an sea bass was reviewed (Section 5). There is an urgent need to include Danish and Swedish recreational catches of western Baltic cod in the assessment. This includes exploratory stock assessment runs to test the effect of including all recreational data on spawning–stock biomass and fishing mortality. In the case of sea bass few time-series of recreational catches exist, so different methods for incorporation of recrea-tional catches in stock assessment have been developed and the sensitivity of the as-sessment model to different approaches investigated. It is unlikely that a single methodology to reconstruct historical catches will work across all fisheries as both the data available and stock modelling approaches vary. However, it is very important time-series are collected for sea bass and that new methods for reconstructing time-series of catches are developed to improve the accuracy of assessments of stocks with significant recreational components.
A WGRFS draft document was developed to provide recommendation for recrea-tional cod data needs for monitoring the recreational fisheries in response to a request from the European Commission to ICES (Section 6). The main conclusions were that to arrive at reliable Baltic-wide estimates of the cod recreational fisheries the MS need to conduct recreational fishing surveys collecting annual numbers, weight, and length or age composition of catches and releases. The surveys need to cover the stock area and be agreed on at a regional level but MS may not need to apply the same survey methods. In order to avoid costly population surveys and conduct rec-reational fishing surveys, the most cost-effective approach is to have a licence system in place where licence holders can be contacted. Collection of multispecies data is preferable and generally easy to conduct within the same national survey pro-gramme. This draft document was used as the basis for the production of ICES advice through the Advice Drafting Group on Recreational Fishing published on 31 May 2016.
Recommendation for future surveys of recreational fishing under the EU Multiannual Plan (EU-MAP) were that thresholds on catches are removed from the EU-MAP, mul-tispecies surveys are requested and that the list of species for the Mediterranean should include groupers, sea bass, Diplodus sargus, Dentex dentex, Sparus aurata and albacore.