COMMENT: Keep Australia Fishing

AUSTRALIA still boasts some of the best fishing in the world, but for how much longer?

Despite the fact that the recreational fishery is pretty well managed with bag and size limits and there is no species of fish in Australian waters endangered by recreational fishing, the extreme Greens still want to make anglers the scapegoat for the sins of others. Marine park lock outs make no distinction between the negligible impact of a guy with a rod and line and a commercial trawler or netsman.

Following a suggestion from Fisho editor Jim Harnwell I was asked by representatives from angling bodies and the tackle and boating trade to pull together some ideas about how we can secure the future of recreational fishing and counter more effectively the threats to our sport, lifestyle and in some cases, our livelihoods. (See News for related story on Martin’s report into the future of rec fishing).

Why a pom like me? Well, I am a fishing licence payer and provided a detailed submission to the recent NSW Recreational Fishing Inquiry that was circulated widely. In it I argued for a fresh approach to the planning and operation of marine parks based on sound science and not myth or prejudice. There is no future in having anglers in one corner and environmentalists in another when we should be on the same side.

A better than even chance of catching a few decent fish in a healthy fishery is a pre-requisite for ensuring that youngsters in particular continue to want to go fishing. It has to be in the long term interests of both the trade and angling organisations to position themselves as the “guardians of the waterside environment” and for the public and politicians to see us as the protectors and defenders of the resource, not simply another bunch of exploiters.

In the course of my research it became clear that while Australia has more fishos per head of population than most other countries we are woefully behind the game in terms of our ability to influence policy and punch our true weight in the corridors of power.

I want to see a strong national peak body for Aussie anglers supported by a vigorous US style Keep Australia Fishing campaign to challenge the real threats to our fisheries which are pollution, habitat destruction and unsustainable netting as well as lobbying against unjustified restrictions on our sport and lifestyle.

I want to see a UK style pollution busting body that will use the courts to go after those who wilfully damage our fisheries.

I believe that every licence payer should be able to vote for their state and national representatives to sit on the peak bodies that speak to government on our behalf, as happens in Holland and NZ, and that they should have a say in chosing those who decide how the licence fees should be spent.

I think that three million rec fishers should be able to write their own Manifesto for Angling to present to the pollies rather than simply waiting for the crumbs to fall off the table or reacting to the demands of others.

But what I think doesn’t matter half as much as what you lot are prepared to do to work for the longterm future of recreational fishing in Australia. The team here at Fisho have the right ideas and have been fantastically generous in sharing their knowledge, experience and contacts with me. They have my thanks and my lifelong friendship.

The recent elections have shown that things are changing and recreational fishers are getting organised. I hope some of the ideas and recommendations in my report will help point the way forward so that the next generation of Aussie anglers and visitors to this wonderful country can continue to enjoy access to great fisheries and some great, sustainable fishing.

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