Belgian marine recreational fisherman: typically male, living in West Flanders and 56 years old | Flanders Marine Institute

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Belgian marine recreational fisherman: typically male, living in West Flanders and 56 years old

Oostende, 24 mei 2019 – The above profile characterizes the Belgian sport fishermen active in angling, shrimping, netting or trawling at sea and on the beach. The 2900 Belgian recreational fishermen together catch more than one and a half million fish and around 100 ton of shrimp. 52% of the fish is discarded, the remaining 48% is taken home. A comprehensive study by VLIZ and ILVO – conducted in close collaboration with almost 300 hobby fishermen – shows these results for the first time.

Press release by: Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (ILVO)

2900 recreational fishermen are counted in the Belgian marine waters and beaches. They are active in angling (1.650) and shrimping (400), or are using other techniques to fish their own fish and shrimp from the shore and on board of ships. Two thirds (67%) live in the coastal province West Flanders. The remainder lives mainly in the provinces East Flanders (11%), Antwerp (8%) and Flemish Brabant (7%). Marine sport fishing appears to be an almost exclusively male hobby (98%) with an average age of 56 years.

An important part of the recreational catches is realized from small ships operating off the coast. The current sport fishing fleet consists of 814 boats, of which 87% (711) are equipped to angle on various round and flat fish species. The remaining 103 vessels catch shrimp with trawl nets within the near coastal zone (<3 nautical miles). Anglers are also active on the beach itself and on groynes, moles and jetties. On the beach are companied by fishermen using all kinds of nets focusing mainly on flatfish, and shrimpers who manually pull a trawl through the shallow surf zone. The horseback fishing in Oostduinkerke is a traditional, still active variant of this.

The species mostly caught by the recreational fishermen is the common North Sea shrimp, with total catches of 102 tonnes in 2018. Of these, the trawlers accounts for 66%, and the beach shrimpers for the other 35 tonnes. In addition, Belgian sport fishermen caught more than 1.53 million fish in 2018, of which 52% were kept and taken home. In order of importance (kept and discarded fish) these bemlong to the species whiting (759.000), dab (347.000), sole (139.000), flounder (77.000), mackerel (67.000), sea bass (37.000), pouting (28.000), plaice (25.000) and cod (20.000). Whiting, dab and sole together account for 82% of the total.

With a total catch of 271 tonnes in 2018 in Belgian marine waters, recreational sea fishing in Belgium accounts for 3.7% of the total landings from this area. Sole, plaice, gurnard and turbot score with 1% or less below this average, species such as mackerel (16%) and whiting (19%) take a more important bite from the whole. At national level the direct economic activity of the sector represents more than 8.6 million euros. Vessels equipped for angling (79%) and trawling (14%) account for the lion's share, due to vessel-related costs such as fuel, mooring fees and maintenance.

The extensive report with facts and figures on the recreational sea fishing in Belgium in 2018 (in Dutch only) is the result of an active citizen science collaboration with nearly 300 sport fishermen, who were willing to share their data. It is also unique that, due to the limited size of the Belgian part of the North Sea, these data could be benchmarked with independently obtained information about the distribution and activities of the sector in the field.

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The report and additional infographic (in Dutch only) can be downloaded by

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