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A COUPLE of weeks ago we reported on the World Recreational Fishing Conference that was held in Victoria, Canada. As proof of its commitment to the recreational fishing sector, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) sent a group of young adults from Australia to attend the conference and undertake a study tour.

The study tour has just come to completion. It offered a first-hand experience of Canada’s recreational fishing sector, and provided insights into the well-managed recreational licencing and re-stocking programs as well as the challenges of stock assessment and allocation.

Our group visited two fish hatcheries, both of which were funded by fishing licence revenue for the sole purpose of restocking waterways. The species included rainbow trout, steelhead, coho salmon and white sturgeon. As well as the paid employees, there were a number of volunteer workers ensuring the long-term viability of the hatcheries, with this level of community engagement proving how valuable the restocking program is to the residents of British Columbia.

We also had some meetings with a Government department, discussing stock allocation between the commercial and recreational sectors, and it was quite interesting how the biomass is managed. Similarly, we had a meeting with a First Nations peacekeeper board, during which river access and stock allocation between the indigenous community and the remaining recreational sector was discussed.

Our group also attended a kids' fishing clinic, where the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC coordinate ‘learn to fish’ sessions for kids during their summer holiday.

We got to spend three days with fishing guides operating in different regions who relied on Canada’s recreational fishing sector as their primary income. It was good to get an industry perspective of the various management strategies and licencing system with surprisingly differing opinions.

One of the highlights for the group was spending a day with Tony Nootebos of BC Sport Fishing Group on the mighty Fraser River. BC Sport Fishing Group in conjunction with the Fraser River Sturgeon Conservation Society (FRSCS) have PIT tagged over 65,000 white sturgeon in the river system and surrounding tributaries in an effort to track and monitor this protected species. Our 4 boats managed to land 14 sturgeon for the day, up to 265cm fork length. Of these fish, 12 were recaptures and 2 were new individuals, which were subsequently tagged. We also found an illegal set-net on the river that we reported, and which was subsequently retrieved and destroyed. Sturgeon are a high value species, for both their meat and caviar, and poaching is a problem.

The conference and study tour bursaries were a great initiative by the FRDC, and we should see this investment flowing through these young leaders in the years to come.

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