NSW fishos to bail out RecFish?

Fisho heard an interesting snippet on the grapevine today regarding a plan to use $46,000 of NSW fishing licence fees to help prop up RecFish Australia, the embattled national organisation which was recently denied funding by the federal Government.

According to sources, a proposal was tabled at yesterday’s Recreational Fishing Saltwater Trust Expenditure Committee (RFSTEC) meeting to give RecFish the 46 grand in order to help keep the cash-strapped organisation afloat.

This proposal needs to be ratified by the Advisory Council on Recreational Fishing (ACORF), which is due to meet on May 18.

Fisho understands this is the second time RFSTEC has been presented with a proposal to fund RecFish. The initial proposal was rejected. It was then – controversially – taken direct to ACORF. ACORF reportedly requested a business plan from RecFish to support its application.

Fisho placed a call to ACORF chair Bruce Schumacher, who also sits on the RFSTEC committee and holds an executive position with RecFish, this morning to get official comments on this story. To date we haven’t heard back from him. We’ll let you know the official line as soon as we get it.

It will be interesting to hear how RecFish plans to support its application for cash from the NSW trust funds.

It will also be interesting to see if ACORF actually ratifies it. According to the NSW Fisheries website, “all money raised by the NSW Recreational Fishing Fee is placed into the Recreational Fishing Trusts and spent on improving recreational fishing in NSW”.

In its heyday, RecFish was doubtless a worthy organisation – but how does giving it $46,000 of NSW anglers’ money “improve recreational fishing in NSW”? RecFish’s main job is, after all, to act as a national lobbying organisation. It’s not supposed to act for individual states. So what direct benefit would NSW fishos get for donating $46,000 of their licence funds to RecFish? If it got the funding would that mean, for instance, that RecFish would then concern itself solely with NSW fisheries matters?

There is a strong argument that NSW anglers’ licence money should only be spent on stocking programs, buying out commercial effort, research, FADs, infrastructure, artificial reefs and other similar programs. That sort of expenditure has a direct and tangible benefit to NSW anglers.

The big question is: Would funding RecFish provide the same sort of benefits? If not, why would ACORF even think about approving it?

And if ACORF does approve the funding does that mean all the other state-based fishing organisations – VRFish, Sunfish, RecFish West, AFANT, SARFAC et al – now follow NSW’s lead and chip in to help RecFish out?

That sounds good but the reality is that these organisations just don’t have the millions in licence money available to NSW. Thus it would be highly unlikely they could help fund RecFish, even if they wanted to.

Like any organisation, RecFish Australia needs funding to survive. The recent refusal by federal Fisheries Minister Tony Burke to allocate funds to RecFish has brought the organisation to its knees, resulting in the contract of CEO Len Olyott not being renewed. This was a major setback for RecFish, as Olyott was widely regarded as being the best CEO RecFish had ever had.

Fisho understands there are federal plans currently being formulated to look at ways recreational fishing can begin to move forward. Exactly what this entails, if the rumours are true, is unknown. Will it mean money for representative organisations? New policy directions? Who knows. It’s all a bit of a mystery at this stage.

What is clear is that many fishing pundits now believe that RecFish Australia is dead in the water. If it’s not actually finally carked it then it’s in intensive care with the batteries for its life support system fast running out. Spending tens of thousands of NSW fishing licence money to attempt to revive what in reality is a pretty smelly corpse is a risky fiscal move. Given that, is ACORF acting in the best interests of NSW anglers if it approves this proposal when it next meets in a week or two?

If ACORF does fund RecFish, then NSW anglers will have the right to expect a full explanation of why this funding was approved and also full details of exactly what it will do to benefit anglers in that state. After all, $46,000 isn’t exactly chicken feed, is it?

Let us know your thoughts on this issue by making a comment.

The Fisho team.


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