Calling attention to the role of recreational fisheries in low and middle-income countries at the World Fisheries Congress

By: Alexander Winkler and Chris Bova

Hub researchers organised a workshop at the World Fisheries Congress on Recreational Fisheries Governance in low-and-middle-income countries in Seattle (US) in March 2024. Funded by the One Ocean Hub, to use this unique opportunity to attract and engage with participants from a global pool. Hub early-career researcher Alexander Winkler and Chris Bova (Rhodes University, South Africa) with Kieran Hyder (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science) and Warren Potts (Rhodes University, South Africa) reflect in this blog post on the need to shed light on the multifaceted perspectives of recreational fisheries governance in LMICs and maximise social benefits from recreational fisheries while ensuring sustainable environmental integrity through compliance with locally formulated regulations.

At the heart of the bustling city of Seattle (US), a gathering of minds at the World Fisheries Congress 3-7 March, 2024) carved out a niche for a pressing discourse on the nuances of managing recreational fisheries within the evolving landscapes of low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). This conclave, set against the backdrop of a city emblematic of developed prosperity, might seem misplaced at first glance. However, it serves a strategic purpose, leveraging the congress’s ability to draw a global cadre of fisheries experts. The dialogue transcends geographical and economic boundaries, fostering a unique exchange between the high-income countries, and LMICs, where the resource disparity is stark, yet the ecological challenges and aspirations are surprisingly common. For example, a recent study conducted by One Ocean Hub researchers highlighted the significant effects that technological advances such as the use of unoccupied aerial vehicles (or drones) in marine recreational fisheries can have on multispecies fisheries in South Africa and globally if they go unmanaged.

Dr Kieran Hyder (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, UK)  eloquently captured the essence of this complex interplay, noting the universal challenges of recreational fisheries management across disparate socio-economic realms. These challenges often revolve around the unnoticed growth of recreational fishing activities, which can impact fish stocks, disrupt aquatic ecosystems, and unsettle the livelihoods dependent on these waters. The congress underscored an intriguing juxtaposition: while high-income nations grapple with the logistics of managing a burgeoning number of recreational anglers, LMICs eye the untapped potential of their pristine environments to lure in tourism revenue from across the globe.

The workshop’s discourse ventured beyond the conventional, highlighting innovative community-driven models from Costa Rica’s efforts to integrate women into the fishing industry to the Bahamas’ community-managed sportfishing initiatives. These stories not only showcased the economic and social upliftment possibilities inherent in recreational fishing but also underscored the pivotal role of sustainable practices in preserving the delicate balance between human activity and nature’s bounty.

On a path towards a collective understanding to fisheries management

As the event unfolded, a compelling narrative emerged, one of bridging divides and fostering unity in the face of shared environmental and social challenges. The workshop, a melting pot of ideas and experiences, illuminated the path towards a collective understanding and approach to fisheries management. It celebrated the successes, acknowledged the hurdles, and set the stage for a future where the sustainability of recreational fisheries is not just an aspiration but a reality, guided by the collective wisdom and concerted efforts of the global community.

As the curtains closed on the World Fisheries Congress, it became evident that the journey toward effective recreational fisheries management, especially within LMICs, is paved with shared challenges and collective wisdom. The insightful workshop held in Seattle, a city far removed from the everyday realities LMICs, nonetheless brought to light the universal nature of fisheries management issues. It bridged worlds, from the high-tech corridors of developed nations to the vibrant communities of the developing world, each with their unique yet interconnected concerns.

This event wasn’t just about sharing best practices; it was a vibrant exchange that highlighted the resilience of communities and the adaptability required to manage our aquatic resources sustainably. From Costa Rica’s innovative approaches to gender equality in the fishing industry to the community-led conservation efforts in the Bahamas, the stories shared painted a picture of hope and possibility. The science blogosphere, often a place of debate and discovery, finds in these narratives a reminder of the power of collaborative science and the importance of viewing global challenges through a local lens. As we reflect on the insights garnered from this congress, it’s clear that the path forward requires not only scientific ingenuity but also a deep commitment to equity and sustainability. In essence, the workshop underscored the profound interconnectedness of our global ecosystem and the collective action required to ensure its future—a fitting conclusion to a gathering that sought to harmonize the diverse voices of the world’s recreational fisheries stakeholders.

The way forward

With the workshop now wrapped up, the next steps promise to be an exciting journey of collaborative effort and knowledge exchange. Our collective expertise will be channeled into co-developing a comprehensive manuscript that sheds light on the multifaceted perspectives of recreational fisheries governance in LMICs. This manuscript will not only highlight the stark differences but also the surprising similarities between the governance frameworks of recreational fisheries in high-income countries and LMICs, providing a rich tapestry of comparative analysis.

Drawing on a curated selection of governance “bright spots” from LMICs across the globe, our work aims to showcase innovative and effective governance practices that have led to sustainable fisheries management. The culmination of this effort will be a set of pragmatic recommendations tailored to improve the governance of recreational fisheries in LMICs. These recommendations will be informed by both the successes and challenges observed in LMICs, with the goal of fostering resilient and sustainable recreational fisheries that can contribute to the socio-economic development of these regions. Through this collaborative endeavor, we aspire to make a meaningful contribution to the global discourse on fisheries governance by publishing the findings in a high-impact journal, paving the way for more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable management practices in the years to come.