Scientific research on recreational fishing targets conservation

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Scientific research on recreational fishing targets conservationThe University of Malta has said that years of scientific research on recreational fishing in Malta targets conservation and improvements in this activity

It said that effective management of recreational sport fishing, which is a popular recreational activity in the Maltese Islands, benefits from accurate monitoring and research to best address and mitigate the impacts.

Therefore an effective collaboration between anglers and conservation scientists has been achieved, it said.

Researchers from the Conservation Biology Research Group from the University of Malta (CBRG-UOM), led by Dr Adriana Vella (PhD) have been monitoring fishing competitions around Maltese coasts, collaborating with these clubs for many years.

It noted that through ongoing collaboration between the recreational fishing clubs and the CBRG-UM, a number of alien fish species including the Cocoa damselfish, the Dory snapper, the Indopacific Sergeant and the Niger hind have also been documented.

Sandra Agius Darmanin (MSc), a researcher within the CBRG-UM has been closely monitoring this type of fishing for the last 6 years, as part of her doctoral research, to assess and identify catches, fishing methods and to evaluate the effectiveness of catch and release practice endorsed by all the clubs.

She explained that this practice involves keeping the fish alive in special long nets called keep nets and releasing them back at the end of the competition. “A practice that should be adopted by all recreational shore fishermen,” she said.

During the research it was found that the most frequently caught fish are the Mediterranean rainbow wrasse, the annular bream and the two banded seabream.

Competitions by various recreational fishing clubs are held regularly around the coast all year round with total catches equating to 0.06% of the official annual commercial catch for the species targeted.

Agius Darmanin said that she has seen an effort during the last two years by each club, and especially by the NFSAM, to reduce fish mortality during competitions with preliminary results indicating that such efforts are proving effective.

Exploratory research on catches by recreational fishermen has also been carried out and the outcomes are currently being analysed.

The University said that increasing outcomes from this research have been presented at various international conferences including the CIESM Congress in Kiel and the ICES conference in Riga and published in the Journal of Fisheries Management and Ecology.

It pointed out that the collaboration for conservation of marine biodiversity allows stakeholders to learn from the scientific process while working closely with conservation scientists and is the way forward to ensure effective sustainable management of this growing sport in respect of local coastal species diversity.

UM said that the latter is already affected by various anthropogenic activities, disturbances, pollution and climate change influences on the marine environment.

This “original, necessary and fruitful research benefits from the enthusiasm of recreational fishers and from the support of dedicated BICREF NGO volunteers,” said UM.

Photographs by Sandra Agius Darmanin: Cliff angling, keep net and Scorpionfish carefully prepared to be released.

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