“Little” fisheries report big on facts

DON’T know about most of you readers, but I’m tired of ploughing through fisheries reports the size of phonebooks. I’m not sure why some of these docos end up being the size they do. Maybe the authors think they’re going to be paid by weight. In my experience of report writing for very senior officials and decision makers, I’ve come to the conclusion that anything over 30 pages is unlikely to be read right through, and even at that length you need an executive summary of a couple of pages up front which summarises key findings and recommendations.

Which makes the recently released Keep Canada Fishing: The Economic FACTS … a small joy. Five pages of key data presented by the Canadian Sportfishing Industry Association (CSIA) extracted from half a dozen or so much larger reports, and produced in co-operation with Shimano.

In Australia, there aren’t any reliable figures on C&R percentages, and figures quoted by both fisheries managers and the commercial sector are based on extrapolation methodologies. That means that some researchers do limited sample boat, creel or phone surveys, multiply the info they get by the estimated number of anglers, and end up with claims that rec fishos catch and keep more of a range of species than professional operators do. The claim that we kill more mulloway and yellowfin bream than pros has never rung true here at Fisho. It really looks dodgy when the same catch tables used to make these claims suggest we keep vast numbers of pest species such as saltwater catfish and wirrahs. And, equally significantly, these studies seem to assume that every fish caught is a fish killed.

I don’t know how they’ve done the calculations, but our Canadian cousins report that in 2010 anglers caught 193 million fish but retained only 63 million, and recreational anglers consumed less than 4 per cent of the total fish harvested in Canada. On the same page, they note that in 2010 anglers spent slightly less than five times the total value of commercial fishing, $8.3 vs $1.7 billion. They report that almost 300,000 more Canadians bought a resident fishing licence in 2010 than in 2005, an increase of 11.3 per cent, and that there are also family licence-free weeks and weekends in place right across the country.

They then go on to quote some fun but telling statistics. In 2010, anglers’ expenditures were 1 1/3 times total sales of wine by wineries, liquor stores and agencies. They’re around the same as national beer sales. They’re 3 ½ times the economic contribution of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Canadian anglers’ voting strength is 1 ½ times that of Canadians aged 65 and over, 21 per cent vs 14 per cent. More Canadian adults fish than play golf and hockey combined. And so on.

There is a more “serious” summary on the breakdown of expenditures by sector (tackle, boating gear, trips etc) presented in an easy-to-read chart. Then there’s some concise prose on the role of Canadian anglers in fisheries and wildlife conservation, dating back to the early 1900’s. As they say, “Healthy fish and wildlife are the foundation of our vibrant fishing and hunting economy.”

I really hope that our fisheries decision makers right across the board get hold of this deceptively simple looking little report (via Google) and think seriously about what it says of relevance to the Australian situation.

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