THE other day I overheard an interesting conversation. It's one that easily sums up our plight as anglers who participate in recreational fishing.
I was sitting down to a client lunch and heard this guy on an adjacent table trying to extoll the virtues of locking up our environment, both terrestrial and aquatic, from those who wish to enjoy the outdoors through recreational activities. This conversation made me very worried...
Subsequently, he went on to say "without really knowing they're doing it, they destroy it at the same time," to another guy who didn't really have an opinion beforehand but was obviously engrossed enough to nod his head in approval.
The whole situation made my blood boil, but I wasn't in a position to stand up and say something.
I repeatedly overheard the green meanie use words like "lock out", "connected marine reserves" and "protecting the environment" from those who don't respect it. While these are not new phrases to us, as we have been fighting this fight now for a long time, what seems to be lost on those who are not educated to the rec fishing movement is how inextricably linked anglers are to the environment. More rec fishers hit the water each day than any other form of boating enthusiasts and as such are the eyes and ears of the environment – the custodians if you will.
Therefore, any smart punter will tell you locking up large tracts of water to rec fishers effectively removes this surveillance. I know many anglers who report anomalies to fisheries officers, law enforcement or other such bodies. We are the first to notice declines in fish stocks or the decline in habitat but more importantly, we are very well versed in self-management. When we see other punters doing the wrong thing we stand up and say something. The next time I spill a bucket of undersize bream back in the water from the person fishing beside me won't be the last I assure you. By and large we obey the rules and enforce them when necessary.
While this lockout theory is flawed, not to mention based anywhere but in science, the real issue is the blatant way an average punter with an extreme point of view was heard and believed. The uneducated public get served diatribe about our sport and they are not in a position to refute the facts. We end up looking like barbarians, which was how this guy made us sound.
What this says to me is the war on our right to access our environment will be won sitting around a public relations boardroom rather than on the water or stomping our feet at Parliament House.
Education is king and the quicker we start to spread the message to the broader uneducated public about who we are and what we stand for the easier it will be to find allies. Let's stop preaching to the converted and think outside the square.