Recreational and Sport fisheries in the EA, SA &O region

The study on Recreational and Sport fisheries in the EA, SA &O region was commissioned by the E€OFISH Programme on the “Contribution of Sustainable Fisheries to the Blue Economy of Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region” under the aegis of the Indian Ocean Commision (IOC) and funded by European Union (EU). Its principal objective is to examine a suite of interventions to the “Formulation of regional strategic framework for responsible and sustainable development of recreational and sport fisheries as part of an update on the Regional Marine Fisheries Sub-Sector Strategy for the EA-SA-IO region” (Activity It is a step-forward in providing a detailed situational analysis necessary to build an in-depth understanding of the prospects and challenges, barriers and constraints, lessons and best practices at the national level for integrating judiciously this component into Regional Marine Fisheries Strategy and Business Plan for the EA-SA-IO region.

Marine sport and recreational fisheries are generally less understood and underdeveloped in the ESA-IO region, yet they have potential to contribute to socio-cultural, economic and food security of the region. While countries such as Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa and partly Madagascar and Seychelles are known as tourist destinations for recreational and sport fishing particularly for big game fishing, limited information exists on their development potential, governance and ecological perspective combined with the opportunities for cross-sectoral successful integration of fishing and non-fishing economic activities. In the 1980s and 1990s, countries such as Kenya and Mauritius had flourishing recreational and sport fisheries. However, the fisheries have experienced a decline in the participation rates, percentages of clientele and number and diversities of target fish species. Even with the technological advancement in the types of sport and recreational fishing vessels and gears (outboard vs. inboard engines, lures), a major concern for the stakeholders is the absence of adequate management measures to address competing interests from diverse groups, increasing fishing costs and security issues that hinder the presence of sport and recreational clients. The rapid decline of the fisheries has a negative implication on local economies and the potential for sustainable development of sport and recreational fisheries in the EA-SA-IO region. A business and sustainable development oriented approach backed-up with evidenced-based approaches is required to enhance overall efficiencies in the recreational and sport fisheries while taking into account the governance, ecological and development implications.

The report provides a detailed situational analysis of select countries including Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros. Information and data presented were collected by secondary and primary surveys of diverse stakeholders to prepare a comprehensive perspective of each country's (i) business, performance and governance models in relation to marine and recreational fisheries; (ii) current challenges and opportunities for development; (iii) interconnectivity of sport and recreational fisheries to local fishing communities, national and regional economies, (iv) short and long term interventions, as well as ways to address the  challenges outlined by stakeholders; (v) and a visualization of a future of developing sustainable marine and recreational fisheries which are inclusive of all stakeholders.

Over 50% of the study respondents revealed that they did not submit their catch data to National Fisheries Institutions (see Annex). Accessibility and availability of data on sport fisheries was limited to few countries among the beneficiary countries - however, individual captains and sport fishing centres showed willingness to share data and information. Operations in the recreational and sport fishery conmprise of community groups (Fishery Cooperative), companies (with Shareholders), family businesses (involves more than one family member) and iIndividual - sole traders (see Annex). Majority of the study respondents noted that compliance to international obligations, national laws and legal frameworks was minimal in relation to sport and recreational fisheries (see annex), even though most countries surveyed have legal frameworks governing fisheries resource use.

Overcapacity and overfishing was of general concern in several countries that have active sport and recreational fisheries especially in overlapping fishing grounds. With the prospects to develop these fisheries, the challenge lies in the ability of the national fisheries institutions and stakeholders to derive ways of sustainable resource sharing and management which would mitigate further decline of commonly targeted species as noted in places such as Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The study also reveals that most sport and recreational fisheries in countries where they are developed were characterized by exclusive operations that were limited to specific target groups and clientele such as in the case of Tanzania, Mozambique, Kenya and to some extent Madagascar and Mauritius. Countries that have non-existent or underdeveloped sport and recreational fisheries have the potential to develop these fisheries while considering the specific lessons and experiences from the region. The Kenya operational model provides a starting point to rethink and re-image inclusive sport fisheries that are climate-smart and sustainable in the ESA-IO region. There are lessons to be learned particularly in re-imagining and implementing sport and recreational fisheries at national level where efforts and investment is required in creating awareness, intensifying the marketing to diverse clientele, ensuring safety of operators and tourists and determining fair cost of fishing and related profit returns for these fisheries to be successful.

Borrowing a leaf from Kenya’s historical prominence as a sport fishing destination, the presence of the iconic billfish species combined with a comprehensive fishing experience put the country on the map. The study also noted a similar trend in Mauritius, Mozambique and partly Tanzania. However, long term participants in the recreational and sport fisheries in the various countries have observed a drastic decline in the ability to attract clientele and provide adequate fishing experiences partly due to the less likelihood of catching the highly sought-after game species as a result of declining fish stocks. To responsibility and sustainability build this fishery, countries will need to look beyond the development needs and consider the ecosystem sustainability to provide long term poverty alleviation, food, nutrition, socio-economic and cultural security in tandem with addressing the implications of climate change and rapidly declining marine biodiversity.

The heterogeneity of countries in the WIO combined with the complexity and uniqueness of sport and recreational fisheries calls for a multi-faceted approach to their sustainable development and management. Put simply, the interventions are not a blanket solution and every country will need to address the challenges and opportunities while drawing from the regional collaboration and experiences of the sport fishing captains and crews. The study revealed that a high proportion of the active participants in the recreational and sport fishing industries are highly experienced and with a wealth of knowledge about the changes in the fishery and what would be needed to sustain the sport and recreational fisheries in the ESA-IO region. The study also revealed that these fisheries contribute in multiple ways to the local economies, yet the socio-economic and cultural impact of these fisheries remains largely undocumented.

The study has concluded and recommended the following :


  • Responsible and sustainable sport and recreational fisheries:

  1. There is a potential risk of overfishing due to multiple fishing groups competing in the same fishing grounds, especially areas with active recreational and sport fisheries. There is an urgent need for countries to undertake a situational analysis of fishing grounds and groups to examine overlaps and determine shared resource management ;

  2. The commonly targeted species in recreational and sport fisheries are under intense pressure from an increasingly large number of multiple users. Based on the study, game fish species, for instance, have declined over the years.

  3. To address this challenge, it is recommended that national fisheries institutions implement adequate and effective regulatory framework to monitor and implement the fisheries regulations in their respective countries.

  • Importance of sport and recreational fisheries: 

  1. Sport fishing is still underdeveloped in some countries, but with a great potential of sustainable development, job creation and supporting socio-economic and cultural security. Given these prospects, a strategy for promotion of the sport and recreational fishing activities would be relevant particularly in the current discourse on the significance of the Blue Economy for ESA-IO countries.

  2. A socio-economic analysis of sport and recreational fisheries value chain and significance in the ESA-IO region is critical for implementing sustainable development objectives.

  • Awareness and Education: While sport and recreational fishing has historical prominence in some countries in the ESA-IO region, the fishery remains unknown to the general public. It is recommended that countries and associated sport fishing entities need to:

    1. Launch an awareness campaign at local and national level to sensitize the public on the importance of sport and recreational fisheries;

    2. Create awareness and education to integrate knowledge about these fisheries into the curriculum.

    3. Development and training on fishing techniques for communities to diversify fishing opportunities.

  • Integrating sport and recreational fisheries in business models: To develop a new concept of integrating sport fisheries infrastructure into current development plans. For example, establishing sport fishing marinas, boatyards and moorings at strategic locations to promote investment, tourism and local involvement.  The new concept will bring together local coastal fishing communities and the public to diversify economic opportunities.

  • Information Data collection and management: Sport and recreational fisheries contribute important information to IOTC’s efforts in managing tuna and tuna like species. It is envisioned that the data collection from sport fisheries will support IOTC efforts in understanding the stock structure. Recognizing the efforts by IOTC to intensify country reporting and compliance, national fisheries institutions should maintain the reporting of information from sport and recreational fisheries.

    1. Majority of the sport and recreational fisheries in the ESA-IO do not submit fisheries data and information which in turn hinders the development of interventions for sustainable use. In 2016-2017, IOTC implemented a regional standardized data collection method and database for recreational fisheries and piloted in four countries (Kenya, Seychelles, Mauritius and La Reunion). There is a need to work with national fisheries institutions, sport fishing clubs and individual boats and captains to evaluate the existing and previous databases to improve reporting from these fisheries.

    2. Sport fishing captains and crew in most ESA-IO countries have voluntarily reported tagging information for key game fish species such as marlin and sailfish for several decades. These data have continued to play a significant role in understanding some of the pelagic fish species in the region. Voluntary data collection and tagging should be encouraged and sensitized at national and regional level to support information gathering.

    3. Given the limited information and data, a pilot project to empower all stakeholders in this fishery is necessary to ensure voluntary data reporting and compliance, co-management and conservation.

  • Regional Cooperation: Sport and recreational fisheries are heterogeneous and travel across multiple jurisdictions. Similarly, the common targeted species such as billfish and tuna are trans boundary. Regional cooperation in sustainable development and management of sport and recreational fisheries is paramount in promoting best practises, sharing of lessons and experiences, and developing collaborative national and regional frameworks. Further, regional cooperation among the ESA-IO countries would be a catalyst to develop sport and recreational fisheries given that fisheries and blue economy are a key priority sectors for these countries.


Sport and recreational fisheries attract a multitude of national, regional and international entities. An integrated approach will be critical to determine the resources, expertise and investment opportunities to address the recommendations and contribute to the goal of “Sustainable Fisheries to the Blue Economy of Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.”