Recreational fishing – definition

Recreational fishing has recently obtained citizenship in Japan. Nonetheless, in the field of big game fishing, using rod-and-reel, targeting large-sized tuna and marlins, nobody can compete with the U.S.A. Such fisheries used to be called sport fishing but recently and more frequently defined as recreational fishing.

At the scientific meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), scientists tried to agree on the definition of recreational fisheries. However, this task was not easy. The discussion lasted for more than a day and yet no conclusion was reached. The most important point was whether fishery can be still called recreational, if the fishers may sell the fish caught. On the other hand, it is probably not correct to call those ‘recreational fishers’, who catch fish for supporting a family diet, as is the case in many coastal areas, on the basis that fish captured are not sold. These fishers catch fish so that family can survive rather than having recreation.

In many countries, including the U.S.A, the management of recreational fishing is left to the local governments, such as province or states. Therefore different rules apply to different areas. As described in the previous paragraph, sales of the fish captured with a recreational fishing license generally are not allowed.

Many fishers, particularly those targeting big games (e.g. marlins) release the fish alive after capture, unless the catch was a trophy winning size. Some fishers, however, keep a part of their catch for family consumption. When a fish is very large, they can ask a factory to cut it into convenient-sized blocks to freeze and give to their friends.

We remember that in the early 1980s, large Atlantic bluefin tuna taken off the east coast of the U.S.A using a rod-and-reel were landed and transhipped to the Japanese market to be sold at a very high price. Currently this fishery is called rod-and-reel fishery and requires a commercial fishing license to conduct. Of course the catch is considered as a part of the U.S.A catch quota for the Atlantic bluefin tuna set by ICCAT.

Off the east coast of the U.S.A, there is still recreational fishing targeting small-sized bluefin tuna, which is operated under a recreational fishing license system. Sales of the catch are not allowed. Even most of the fish caught are released alive; they are allowed only within the limit of the U.S.A bluefin catch quota.

Similar recreational fishery exists also in the Mediterranean but as I understand, they are not included in the country quota on the basis that the fish are released alive. Could these differences in the interpretation of catch quota simply be reflecting the differing cultures of these areas?