Potential environmental impacts of recreational fishing on marine fish stocks and ecosystems

Wolf-Christian Lewin, Marc Simon Weltersbach, Keno Ferter, Kieran Hyder, Estanis Mugerza, Raúl Prellezo, Zachary Radford, Lucia Zarauz, Harry Vincent Strehlow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


Marine recreational fishing (MRF) is a popular activity that involves millions of people worldwide. While the impacts of recreational fishing on freshwater ecosystems received increasing attention in recent decades, the consequences of MRF on marine fish and ecosystems are largely unstudied. MRF takes place mainly in coastal areas where most of its impacts concentrate. This review identified and ranked the activities and potential risks associated with MRF using a risk assessment matrix based on ecological and fisheries-related literature. The majority of the impacts were rated to be of minor importance (impacts that occur locally, are reversible, and comparably easy to manage on local scales). Three impacts were ranked as high-risk impacts (severe impacts that are difficult to reverse and to manage, and that may require management measures on a broad spatial scale): (1) the direct and indirect impacts of high and selective fishing mortality (truncation of the natural age and size structure, depensatory mechanisms, loss of genetic variability, evolutionary changes, and food web changes) because they potentially contribute to the decline of fish stocks and undermine biodiversity and ecological resilience, (2) the use of live bait organisms that originate from water bodies elsewhere because released or lost live bait organisms potentially impact the genetic, species, and ultimately ecosystem diversity, and (3) the loss of lead containing fishing tackle that potentially causes environmental contamination. The separation of MRF-induced impacts from other anthropogenic impacts is difficult and the impacts vary according to country-specific fishing practices, legislation, and cultural backgrounds. It can nonetheless be concluded that MRF can impact fish populations and coastal environments. In particular, the high-risk impacts require further investigations as information on their effects on marine fish stocks and ecosystems are generally sparse. Finally, the review outlines management implications for sustainable marine recreational fisheries that match the temporal and spatial scale of both the marine environment affected and the recreational fishing effort and proposes areas for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-330
Number of pages44
JournalReviews in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019


  • angling
  • biodiversity
  • boating
  • catch-and-release
  • depensation
  • ecological impacts
  • evolutionary changes
  • exploitation
  • genetic diversity
  • littoral
  • Marine recreational fishing
  • wildlife

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