Changes in recreational fishing: Fines, cameras and size limits

Fishing at Nasva.
Fishing at Nasva. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

The Ministry of the Environment is assessing the need to tighten up laws on recreational fishing that would allow for harsher punishments for violations, tighter video surveillance on coastlines and setting maximum limit restrictions on catch size.

A fisherman, who just wants to take their rod and bait to a nearby lake or river, can do so without anyone's intervention. However, a permit must be held when it comes to spin fishing or using other sport fishing equipment.

The Ministry of the Environment acknowledged when drafting the law that every sixth recreational fisherman has not paid for a permit. Meaning, by law, they could be fined but most of the times are let off with a simple warning.

Herki Tuus, head of the Fishery Resources Department of the Ministry of the Environment, said: "Normal procedure for misdemeanor proceedings is that you invite the person to the Environmental Inspectorate, hear their justifications and then go through this long process."

But if the person was catchless, a simple cost-benefit analysis would point out that a simple warning would be sufficient punishment. The ministry is now trying to give the Inspectorate another tool.

Tuus explained: "We would make such accelerated proceedings possible, similar to what the police use for people who do not wear a seatbelt. It is less demanding on all parties involved and the punishment is also lighter."

The ministry proposed a fixed €80 penalty, which the accused can refuse and apply for more thorough proceedings.

The ministry is also looking to simplify surveillance.

Tuus explained that the Environmental Inspectorate is currently using trail cameras and drones to catch poachers. "We need to legitimize this process so we could use the tapes for evidence. We have a plan to use both trail cameras and uniform cameras."

A mandatory video surveillance system is also planned for fishing vessels. Tuus said the requirement is not an Estonian initiative but will be put into force by the European Union at some point.

He said: "For example, it is recommended to release undersized cod after capture in the southern part of the Baltic Sea but they will actually end up dying. That is why this type of fishing is forbidden. Now comes the question of how to control this. When a vessel leaves port, we can't send a surveillance ship with them. That leaves us with video surveillance."

There are minimum size restrictions for most fish in Estonia already set but the ministry is also planning to set a maximum size limit. Herki Tuus noted that this will affect many recreational fishermen.

Tuus said: "The logic of a maximum size limit is that for some species, the effect of larger specimens on offspring is great than others. For example, pikes - if a female weighs 10 kg, their reproductive success is far greater than that of a smaller fish."

He added that there is no national limit in the works. The maximum size limit would be made available in case conservation is necessary at a specific body of water.

Tuus concluded: "Of course, this will raise the question of how a trophy fish can be caught. But you can always take a picture and then release the fish. Many often do."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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