Government denies Recfish funding

RecFish Australia, the peak body that has represented Australian anglers for the past 27 years, has received a blow with news the Federal Government has rejected a request for financial support. This has led to Recfish CEO Len Olyott’s contract not being renewed and the resignation of Frank Prokop as chairman of the RecFish board.

A press release issued by RecFish highlights the fact that the funding crisis occurred a week after the Government released its National Strategy for Recreational Fishing for public comment. RecFish had been requesting government funding to continue its representation of Australia’s 3.5 million recreational fishers and to “provide expert and sound advice” to government agencies and the fishing and boating industries.

RecFish had provided a long-term self funding options report to government for comment, and made several requests for funding but had been told “to look elsewhere for a funding stream”. One of the options RecFish had previously explored was a levy on fishing tackle sales, but this was strenously opposed by the Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA), causing tension between the two organisations.

The Rudd Government recently renewed its commitment to the nation’s commercial fishing industry, by committing $2.6 million to Oceanwatch, funding the SeaNet environmental program. Oceanwatch is a “not for profit” organisation focused on developing sustainable commercial fishing practices.

“RecFish Australia sees the Oceanwatch funding as a positive approach by the Government and would like the same opportunity extended to RecFish Australia to work with government on sustainability issues.” said Prokop.

 _163_ Prokop ms.jpgOutgoing Recfish chairman Frank Prokop.

RecFish Australia has now repositioned itself as a volunteer run organisation , with Russell Conway from Victoria as the new chair.

Recfish Australia member organisations say they will refuse to allow the organisation to collapse, saying upcoming issues that will affect recreational anglers such as the Commonwealth Marine Bioregional Planning consultation mean a peak national body representing anglers is vital.

RecFish Australia is calling on all anglers and concerned groups to to write to their federal MPs protesting about the lack of funding.

Recfish CEO Len Olyott told Fisho he was “incredibly disappointed” by the outcome and says it could lead to more division withing rec fishing ranks.

“The losers in this will be the recreational fishers of Australia,” Olyott said.

With his contract with RecFish due to expire at the end of April, Olyott is unsure of his future career direction. He says he still wants to be working with the recreational fishing community, possibly in a consulting capacity.

“Time will tell what will happen,” he said.

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