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Researchers, sport fishermen collaborate to conserve

All local fishing clubs implement the catch and release practice whenever possible.All local fishing clubs implement the catch and release practice whenever possible.

Researchers from the University of Malta’s conservation biology research group, led by conservation biologist Adriana Vella have been monitoring fishing competitions organised by sport fishing clubs around the island for many years. Close collaboration between anglers and conservation scientists is a basic requirement for the effective management of recreational fishing.

It has been observed that all fishing clubs implement the catch and release practice whenever possible. All fish caught during the competitions are kept alive in keep nets and released at the end of the competition.

The use of keep nets by anglers during competitions has also increased due to greater enforcement by club committees, with some clubs opting for more venues that allow better keep net use. Fish caught during competitions vary according to location and season.

As part of a PhD research project being supervised by Dr Vella, one of the group’s researchers, Sandra Agius Darmanin, is seeking to understand the impacts and mitigation measures necessary to reduce the impacts of recreational fishing. The project, being carried out with the cooperation of various fishing clubs and the National Federation of Sports Anglers Malta (NFSAM), is focusing on coastal fish species biology and recreational fishing activities to target effective conservation practices and recommendations.

Discussions with the NFSAM, the body that oversees all local sport fishing clubs, have resulted in several measures to reduce the catch of undersized juvenile fish and fish mortality. The effectiveness of these measures is being monitored.

Preliminary findings from the project have been presented in a number of conferences abroad, including the Congress by the Mediterranean Science Commission (CIESM) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

Such research and collaboration for conservation of marine biodiversity is an essential requirement to achieve the various biodiversity conservation and marine strategy framework directive obligations. By working closely with conservation scientists stakeholders also learn from the scientific process. This is a positive way forward necessary to ensure effective sustainable management of this growing sport.

For further information on the projects by the group, e-mail adriana.vella@um.edu.mt.

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