CAN you be a passionate recreational fisher and a committed conservationist at the same time? Here at Fisho we think you can, as we’ve had an environment editor position for nearly thirty years and editors and publishers who have understood the need for a sensible, balanced approach to marine conservation issues. We’ve supported reasonable bag limits, closed seasons and scientifically based marine protected areas. We get into in-print arguments about some of our stances but getting people talking about these issues is half the battle in this game.

On January 7, Robert Connolly’s film version of Tim Winton’s short and deceptively simple novel Blueback will hit cinema screens. It centres around a family’s relationship with a giant Western blue groper but as with anything Tim writes there’s a more complex back story, essentially around a battle to save Longboat Bay (the family’s and Blueback’s home) from overdevelopment.

Tim is both a passionate rec fisher and a champion of ocean conservation. He was prominent in the initial, successful battle to preserve the Ningaloo Reef complex and is currently fighting to protect the Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo’s nursery. He’s a patron of the Australian Marine Conservation Society. He is a very public advocate of sustainable fishing, both commercial and recreational, and is unashamedly pro-marine parks. In the past he’s caused a bit of controversy with his “enough” theory of recreational fishing, that is rather than continuing to catch-and-release fish during a hot bite, you stop when you’re caught enough for your immediate needs. That’s certainly not a popular view amongst most anglers in Australia but is in line with fishery management practices in some European countries, where catch-and-release fishing is not permitted but fishing for a feed is.

The marine environment, oceans and fishing feature in many of his books. The night-time dinghy fishing scenes in Cloudstreet are quite magical. In Dirt Music, the lead character heads north of Broome to a fishing camp owned by a joker named Red Hopper. Anyone who’s fished the Admiralty Gulf and met Bluey Vaughan wouldn’t have much trouble joining the dots there….

Tim’s reputation as one of our best living novelists means that he can get discussion of marine conservation issues generally, and the desirability of sustainable fishing practices most specifically, into the mainstream media via interviews preceding the release of new books or, right now, the film version of Blueback. He can educate a much broader readership than we can get to via the fishing media. And he gets recognition: when a research team discovered twenty new fish species in the Kimberley leading up to 2016, they named a particularly attractive 30-cm long gold and silver discovery Winton’s Grunter (Hannia wintoni) in recognition of his championing of aquatic conservation. He’s reported to have wondered about what its habitat and habits were….and what it might taste like. Now that is cool… and balanced.

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