The recreational fishing market in Sweden is more than 10 times greater than the commercial fishing market, a new report has revealed.
Fiskeriverket, the Swedish Fisheries Board, values the socio-economic value of sport fishing in the country at around 1 billion kroner (106m euros). But commercial fishing is responsible for just 75m kroner (8m euros).
The report further reinforces the Swedish government's ambition to dramatically reduce commercial fishing quotas for the long-term benefit of recreational angling - especially tourism.
'Fritidsfiske och fritidsfiskebaserad verksamhet' ('Recreational Fishing and Recreational Fishing Dependant Business') says fishing tourism in Sweden has a growth potential, but only if more fish stocks are protected against commercial trawling.
Sweden has around 1 million recreational anglers - 776,000 using handheld gear only. The country supports around 1,300 sportfishing-related businesses, many of which are small-scale businesses operating in rural areas. This compares to just 1,000 commercial fishermen.
With these statistics in mind, Fiskeriverket wants to redirect parts of the catch quota to recreational fishermen, a strategy which is supported by one of the report's authors, Anton Paulrud.
Mr Paulrud believes recreational fishing poses no threat to fish stocks and said: “It is possible for the politicians to direct the quotas to another part of the business. Even if we are part of the common fisheries policy within the EU, which allocates quotas to Sweden, this doesn't mean that this entire quota has to be caught.
“Recreational fishing is a relatively sustainable kind of fishing, and on top of that it has other values - in that it increases both knowledge about, and engagement with, nature."
One of the main sources of information for the report was an extensive questionnaire sent to the country's recreational fishing businesses.
The results show that these businesses are optimistic about the future. The demand for their services is said to be big but there are obstacles which deprive the sector from expanding.
One of the most obvious is lack of fish. Here, the figures from the report are gloomy for almost all important food fish. In Östersjön [the Baltic Sea] a number of important fish stocks are on the decrease, including perch, pike and pike-perch.
In Bottenviken the numbers of both salmon and trout are weak, while the situation is dire for cod in almost all Swedish waters.
Fiskeriverket's researchers have shown that commercial fishing has torn apart many of small local cod stocks, which used to be caught along the Swedish west coast. In the 1970’s buses full of anglers went from all over Sweden to fish for cod along the coast. Nowadays anglers are forced to go to Norway.
EFTTA lobbyist Jan Kappel provided valuable input into the report and, after reading it, said: "There is no doubt that the Swedish authorities finally have seen the light which is that sportfishing generates big value with low fish take and that Sweden has some marvellous waters. They could profit much more from angling tourism potential."
Sport fishermen in Sweden are jubilant that the report calls for more attention to be paid to recreational angling in the future.
Klas Elm, of Spofa Spöfiske, said: "After lobbying for years, I am happy to report that things are going in the right direction in Sweden right now."
Company Contact: Heather Kerr, EFTTA
Tel: +44 (0) 207 253 0777 Fax: +44 (0) 207 253 7779