From recreational boating to conservation. The Nautical Clubs and their role in the monitoring of Marine Reserves.


Volunteer recreational fishermen from the Nautical Clubs of Arenal, La Ràpita, and Estanyol are participating in scientific experimental fishing days, revealing the potential for collaboration between enthusiasts, experts, and authorities for the assessment and management of fishery resources. Marine biomass, a key indicator of the health of our reserves, is measured in kilograms per square kilometer of exploited species. Monitoring it is essential to determine the effectiveness of protected areas. Through methods such as visual censuses, tagging, and experimental fishing, a clear picture of the conservation status of species is obtained.

There are several scientific methods to measure fish biomass, such as visual censuses, tagging, and experimental fishing, each with its advantages and disadvantages. An effective strategy, proven in other countries, is to involve recreational fishermen in monitoring plans.

The Balearic Islands, with 42,000 active recreational fishing licenses, stand out for the importance of this practice, which provides crucial data for the continuous monitoring of fish biomass. Despite its relevance, the collaboration between fishermen, scientists, and administrations has been underutilized in our archipelago.

In an effort to change this dynamic, the Directorate General of Fisheries of the Govern de les Illes Balears and the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) have initiated a campaign of experimental fishing days as part of the project “Service for Support to Fishing Plans, MEPRO 5220/2023,” aiming to consolidate nautical clubs as platforms for monitoring marine reserves.


Photo: Catches from one of the standardized fishing trips conducted by a recreational fisherman in the marine reserve of the Bay of Palma before being returned to their habitat . Author: Josep Alós


The days have two main objectives. First, to directly involve the fishermen of the nautical clubs in data collection through standardized experimental fishing, conducted alongside scientists to generate information on the state of fishery resources. Second, to promote the digital tool designed to report recreational fishing catches, an app called 'Recreational Fishing Diary', where fishermen can record their catches after a day at sea.

The first Nautical Clubs to join the initiative were Club Nàutic S’ArenalClub Nàutic Sa Ràpita and Club Nàutic S’Estanyol. . Scientific days have been organized in these clubs with the participation of nearly 40 fishermen and 15 boats, conducting experimental fishing in the marine reserves of the Bay of Palma and Migjorn.

These days have been carried out in locations with over two decades of catch records by the Directorate General of Fisheries. Recent data will allow for the analysis of biomass evolution in these reserves. More than a thousand fish have been documented, including standardized measurements and photographs. Preliminary analyses are promising, showing, for example, that the probability of catching large specimens of ‘vaca’ (Serranus scriba) has increased significantly.

The findings indicate not only a strengthening in the amount of marine life in the Balearic marine reserves, demonstrating the success of environmental protection measures, but also an increase in socio-economic benefits, with fishermen reporting more abundant and larger catches.

This successful collaborative model suggests a promising future, with the possibility of extending it to more nautical clubs and marine reserves in the Balearic Islands, and integrating these standardized fishing days into the regular activities of fishermen, thus forging a permanent monitoring network for our precious marine reserves.


Image 2: Catches from one of the standardized fishing trips conducted by a recreational fisherman in the marine reserve of the Bay of Palma before being returned to their habitat (author: Josep Alós)