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Anglers’ conservation effort grows

A RECENTLY completed project funded by the Fisheries Research and Development
Corporation has shown that Australia’s recreational fishing community plays an increasingly important role in caring for our fish stocks, and the rivers, estuaries and oceans that they live in.

Project leader, Matt Barwick said “the purpose of the project was to really get a handle on how active Australia’s recreational fishing community is in caring for our fisheries and the
habitats and ecosystems they depend on. This is the first time anyone has tried to develop an understanding of the role that recreational fishers play in looking after Australia’s aquatic resources, and the results have been really interesting”.

The study, entitled “Angling for Conservation” found that recreational fishers contribute
significantly towards conservation and sustainability-focussed initiatives around Australia,
through providing vital investment, and sometimes also hands-on delivery of projects
around Australia.

The recreational fishing community has invested an impressive $33.1 million of its own money in projects with a focus on conservation or sustainability around Australia. Habitat improvement projects were found to be most commonly type of project funded by recreational fishers with 18 per cent involving revegetation of river banks and foreshores, 17 per cent involving improvement of fish passage, and 14 per cent involving bank stabilisation works to reduce erosion. In terms of total investment, recreational fishers spent most of their money on research to ensure fisheries remained sustainable ($9.47m). However, there was also significant investment in projects to help deliver educative messages to recreational fishers and the broader community ($7.9m), monitor aquatic ecosystems (in particular fish communities) ($6.3m), and improve fish passage through building fishways and removing old barriers ($5.7m).

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Garbage collected by recreational fishers as part of “Cleaning up the ‘Pin”, an annual
event run by Sunfish Queensland (Image source: John Johnston).

The study has also shown that Australia’s recreational fishers aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty either, having led on-ground delivery of approximately $1.3 million in projects throughout Australia.

According to Barwick, it’s likely that the figures reported dramatically underestimate the level of investment made by recreational fishers, as Angling for Conservation has only captured financial investment, and the level of in-kind contribution made by recreational fishers through volunteering their time is still unknown, but would significantly exceed the level of financial investment.

The value of recreational fishing licensing schemes was reinforced through the findings of
this project, with the majority of activities found to occur within jurisdictions with licensing
programs, and particularly through initiatives such as New South Wales’s Habitat Action
Grants Program, which is funded through the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust.

Says Barwick, “Angling for Conservation is designed to be a growing, evolving account of angler involvement in conservation and sustainability-focused projects. We would love people to continue to tell us about new projects so that this resource can continue to grow over time to reflect increasing activity amongst the recreational fishing community.”

An interesting tool has also been developed through the project to enable people access to information about relevant projects using Google Earth. Go to www.anglingforconservation.org to find out more about projects happening in your area.

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Recreational fishers involved in a study monitoring the impacts of re-snagging on the
Murray River (Image source: Jarod Lyon).

In summarising the significance of the project, Barwick explains, “The take home message from this study is that recreational fishers are becoming more and more involved in looking after our fish stocks, and caring for fish habitat. With over four million recreational fishers around Australia though, there is always scope to do more. If you’re a recreational fisher and interested in getting involved in projects to help care for the fish stocks and waterways in your area, get involved with the Fish Habitat Network (www.fishhabitatnetwork.com.au). This group offers great support and advice on how to get projects happening in your area”.

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Recreational fishers planting future snags along the Tuross River (Image source: Eurobodalla Shire Council)

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