AUSTRALIA’S recreational fishing community don’t get a chance to come together and discuss national challenges facing our sport too often, and so it was no surprise that the recent National Recreational Fishing Conference provided a flashpoint in many respects.
The Conference, held on the Gold Coast from 17-19 August 2012, signalled a focus on development of a shared vision to address issues facing recreational fishing in Australia.
The ABT crew put on a fantastic Pro-Am Tournament for conference attendees on the first day, and spending a morning flicking lures at wily bream alongside some of Australia’s best tournament fishers was a highlight for many. It was also a perfect start to the event, reminding everybody that at the end of the day it’s all about the fish, learning from one another and enjoying a shared passion for Australia’s most popular pastime.
Steve Morgan showing them how it’s done during the Pro-Am event.
The conference was attended by around 160 delegates, including representatives of the tackle industry, peak bodies, government, journalists and grass roots recreational fishers. The event covered four key topics which were selected by recreational fishers around Australia through an online survey:
1. Engaging and influencing decision makers
2. Understanding the importance of recreational fishing to Australian society
3. Responsible fishing practices
4. Creating more fish through providing more habitat
There were a number of fantastic presentations, but Martin Salter (ex British Politician and author of “Keep Australia Fishing”) was a stand out for many, highlighting the need for Australia’s rec fishers to get organised, agree on what is important to us, and work together to achieve our shared vision.
Simon Evans from the United Kingdom also showed that when the fishing community thinks big, they can achieve amazing things. Simon shared how the charity he works for (the Wye and Usk Foundation) was formed by recreational fishers to address the decline of Atlantic salmon stocks, and has now secured over £10m investment (around $15 million) which has been used to restore the Wye and Usk river systems, restoring fish movement, correcting acid waters, controlling exploitation and restoring 212km of riparian habitats.
Martin Salter delivering a challenge to Australia’s recreational fishers: “are you ready?”
There were also brilliant presentations on the need to invest in future leadership for our sector, with emerging leaders such as Matt Gillett from Western Australia providing reassurance that there is a bright future for fishing in Australia. Melanie Young and Dr Alexander McManus also gave unique perspectives on how recreational fishing can deliver amazing and sometimes surprising benefits to fishers themselves, improving self esteem and social cohesion, bringing wayward teenagers back on track, and promoting recovery from injury and sickness.
And there were plenty more inspirational stories and presentations – too many to summarise here, though powerpoint presentations for many of the speakers are available at www.recfishing2012.com.au, and videos of each presentation will be available through YouTube shortly.
Importantly, the National Conference wasn’t just a gabfest. In a final session participants agreed on four actions that they wanted progressed on behalf of Australia’s fishing community:
1. development and implementation of a national charter for recreational fishing in Australia, describing our agreed focus, principles, and needs;
2. formulation and implementation of a national strategy on fish habitat to improve recreational fishing opportunities;
3. delivery of a clear message on the national social (health and well-being) and economic (economic contribution and number of jobs) value of recreational fishing to the Australian government and the community; and,
4. provision of ongoing opportunities for leadership development.
In coming months various organisations/groups will assume leadership roles in progressing these actions, with the recreational fishing industry and community leading the charge.
If you want to be kept up to date on progress in addressing these priorities simply “like” Recfishing Research on Facebook. Also, mark the next national conference in your diary in 2014, where progress will be reported in detail.
The National Conference was delivered by Recfish Australia in partnership with the Australian Fishing Trade Association, with the help of key sponsors including the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and additional support of the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust and Fish Habitat Network, PIRSA Fisheries, Southern Cross Austereo, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Native Fish Strategy, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.