Who speaks for Aussie fishos?
A BRITISH winter has its charms but it’s best broken up with sojourn to sunnier climes. I’m pleased to report that I shall be back out in Australia at the end of the month and looking forward to catching up with as many old friends as possible – preferably on the water.
Back in July I linked up with the Aussie delegation at the World Recreational Fishing Conference in Vancouver, which included fellow Fisho writer, Jamie Crawford, and was asked whether I could come over to give a presentation to the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation’s National Conference in Darwin. It was suggested that I could draw on my international experience to give an assessment on how effective Aussie fishos have been in finding their voices and creating professional and effective advocacy for their sport. This was the subject of my Keep Australia Fishing report in 2011.
The conference takes place over the weekend of November 24 - 26 and includes a roundtable for state fisheries representatives, a ministerial address, sessions on sustainable fisheries management, habitat restoration, community involvement and getting more people into fishing.
All the details can be found here: https://www.recreationalfishing.com.au/event/national-recreational-fishing-conference/
I’m hoping for a good turnout but realise that organising a national conference in a country as huge as yours presents a few more logistical challenges than we usually have to deal with in the U.K.
Keep Australia Fishing Report - 2011
My report was published in April 2011 and endeavoured to give a flavour of the situation on the ground from every State and Territory, and to collect useful and valuable examples of international good practice including Europe and the USA. It set out the following recommendations:
The lack of an economic narrative in particular is a major failing and requires addressing urgently.
Although the 3 million recreational fishers number looks reasonably accurate, the existing national expenditure, economic benefit and dependent jobs figures vary considerably.
Aside from a national figure and a breakdown by states it would be extremely helpful to know the economic value of particular recreational fisheries. This would assist in campaigns to have particular high value species designated as recreational only.
That the Commonwealth government, through FRDC and Recfishing research, be pressed to fund a five yearly comprehensive survey of participation rates in aquatic based wildlife activities, including recreational fishing, diving, whale and dolphin watching and wildfowling, along the lines of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. This survey would also determine economic, social and other benefits together with a reliable estimate of employment generated.
Further research should also be carried out to determine the economic value of specific recreational fisheries such as striped marlin, kingfish, sailfish, permit, queenfish, giant trevally, barramundi and other sporting species to assist the case for some further recreational only designations.
A Charter for Recreational Fishing in Australia
That an appropriate vehicle be identified to enable the commercial, voluntary, national, regional and specialist parts of the recreational fishing sector to come together to develop a vision for the sport and an Australian Charter for Recreational Fishing.
A Fresh Approach to Marine parks and the Environment
In addition to challenging the basis of many of the existing Sanctuary Zones within the Australian Marine Parks, there is both scope and precedent for arguing that the presence of recreational fishers aids enforcement and compliance and can provide an invaluable source of data and information which the lock outs currently prevent. We will not unscramble the current network of Marine Parks but we should be aiming to re-shape what occurs within them and to review the criteria for their introduction and implementation using best practice from elsewhere.
That the recreational fishing sector enter into partnerships with like-minded organisations, groups and prominent individuals to prepare a co-ordinated policy position on Marine Parks and their contribution to sustainable and effective fisheries management. This work to be informed by the emerging UN guidelines and experience from elsewhere and with the intention of re-building community support for scientifically justified marine protection measures and working with government to overhaul their current operation, management and structure.
That a code of conduct be established in respect of recreational fishing in remaining sanctuary zones or highly protected marine areas which would provide useful data and information, limit fishing methods, and, where appropriate, require total catch and release. If necessary consideration could be given to bringing in a special permit or advance notification to ensure tighter management and reduced impact.
That restrictions on trolling for pelagic species be lifted in Marine Park areas open to other boating activities.
An Environmental Agenda for Recreational Fishers
The recreational fishing sector needs to re-position itself within the broader environmental agenda to highlight some of the existing good work that is already being led by anglers, particularly in respect of freshwater habitat restoration. It should devote more energy and resources to further such work including education programs in schools and in the community. There is a need to actively promote our broader contribution to the environment and to make common cause with organisations such as WWF and even Greenpeace, as we did over the recent campaign against commercial over fishing of the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery and should be doing over land management practices, water quality and habitat degradation. There is no future in having recreational fishers in one corner and environmentalists in the other, for without a healthy aquatic environment and a sustainably managed fishery there will be no recreational fishing in the long term.
As part of the Charter process the recreational fishing sector should adopt a clear statement of environmental objectives, begin promoting habitat restoration projects, seek tougher controls on pollution and poor land management practices and seek to build partnerships with conservation and environmental groups on matters of common concern.
Funding and Structures
Australian anglers need a strong national voice and effective representation, independent of political patronage and commercial influences, at both State and Federal levels
Adequate and secure funding streams are crucial to building effective and resilient organisations to deliver advocacy and representation. Funding peak bodies entirely from consolidated revenues is fundamentally flawed. Peak bodies can’t work effectively if they are in thrall to a minister and ministers are reluctant to fund bodies that give them a hard time. The tackle and boating organisations have important roles to play in addition to safeguarding their commercial interests but they cannot also be peak bodies for the ordinary angler.
User pays is becoming an increasingly important concept and underpins the structures for delivering recreational fishing opportunities in countries as far apart as New Zealand and the USA. With increasing pressure on government budgets a protected and dedicated funding source is vital.
That discussions begin with all relevant bodies in the recreational fishing sector in Australia to draw up proposals on new representative and funding models to be put to government and that as a matter of priority AFTA and the BFCA begin work to establish a new Australia-wide campaigning organisation ‘KeepAustraliaFishing’.
These recommendations sought to draw on the very best from these jurisdictions and suggest how they might be applied in the Australian context. I hoped they provided a helpful basis for a new way forward for a sport that had no effective unified voice.
The full Executive Summary is here:
And for anyone in need of some bedtime reading the complete report can be found here:
There’s clearly been progress since 2011 and I was delighted when the independent ‘Keep Australia Fishing’ (KAF) advocacy group was formed later in 2012. KAF was designed to be the grassroots advocacy arm of the recreational fishing structure. It was to run campaigns and, if needed, take a political stance on issues. It was an "independent" group acting on behalf of anglers with an appointed board comprising representatives from the tackle industry, boating industry, angling organisations and the fishing media.
It aims were:
- Protecting your fishing rights
- Preserving our iconic fishing places and fish habitat
- Promoting fishing for children and families
- Promoting sustainable fishing practices
- Educating the community about the benefits of recreational fishing
This was followed by the establishment of ARFF later that year as the peak body for the recreational fishing community with three main objectives of Education, Research and Environment. ARRF was to be seen more as an umbrella body encompassing all the major state and federal organisations acting as a focal point for any government contact and/or engagement. It would take a non political stance and would not be involved in any direct campaigning or lobbying. It has a board elected from member groups.
Is it working?
I guess, six years later, we have to ask if these structures are working and what the Aussie fishos know about the organisations that work and speak on their behalf? In fact, how many are even aware of KAF and ARFF and what they do?
I’m keen to find out the following:
- Have we given the sport a unified voice?
- Do we need both ARFF and KAF and are their roles clear?
- Is having public funding for the peak body ARFF a problem?
- Licensing – should there be a national licence to support a federal fishery service?
- State representation – is it working well in all cases?
- Political influence – does the federal government even recognize recreational fishing outside of an election?
- What are the main threats to recreational fishing – pollution, lock outs, climate change, commercial over fishing?
- How do encourage young Australians to keep fishing?
It would be great to get some feedback from Fishing World readers so if you’ve got time to email me over a few thoughts in the next couple of weeks I would be most grateful. I’m on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, why not post a few thoughts in the comments section below?