QLD Government leaves Sunfish out to dry

QUEENLAND’S Campbell Newman led government appears to be attempting to divert criticism of its decision to cut funding to rec body Sunfish by claiming kudos for expected services such as fisheries compliance, surveillance, boat ramp signage and community service announcements.

This has been revealed in a letter Fisho received this afternoon. The announcement titled “Open Letter to Queensland recreational Fisher” from the office of the Queensland Minister for Agriculture Fisheries & Forestry John McVeigh sets out in no uncertain terms the government’s views on providing funding to rec fishing representative bodies. 

In Fisho’s view the announcement (printed below in full) makes it clear that rec fishing bodies can’t rely on governments to guarantee funding.

Having said that, Fisho believes governments have a responsibility to support rec fishing organisations as they provide the only available means anglers have for effective representation and for providing ongoing rec fishing opportunities. To unilaterally cut funding from a group like Sunfish is, we believe, a backwards step and a slap in the face to the anglers of QLD.


Dear Recreational Fisher

The Newman Government is spending more than $10 million from this year’s State budget on recreational fisheries management and activities.

Every single dollar of that very substantial amount, made available in very difficult economic times, fully supports recreational fishing in Queensland, and it is laid out clearly and publicly in the 2012-13 budget documents.

Unfortunately, a rather colourful, emotive, but misleading campaign is being waged by some competing fishing groups including Sunfish. Self-preservation and self-promotion may be contributing factors to the campaign, but many of the claims are simply not true and do not stand up to scrutiny.

For example, if less than $1m is raised from the Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme (SIPS), and less than $5m is raised through the Recreational Use Fee (RUF) on recreational boat registrations, more than $4m is coming from somewhere else, and it’s not coming from the pockets of recreational fishers or from thin air. The remainder is coming directly from the Newman Government’s investment of public funds.

Services provided by Fisheries Queensland to recreational fishers from this $10m budget include:

· compliance, surveillance and enforcement including boat ramp signage and community service announcements ($3.2m);

· communication and education programs including free handbook for recreational fishers ($500,000);

· fish stocking and recovery programs, pest fish education, and marine habitat protection ($2m);

· recreational fishing survey including Keen Angler and online diary program ($300,000);

· research, monitoring, and reporting activities ($2.5m); and

· scientific assessment and policy development ($2m).

This funding is in addition to the $10m election commitment that will improve monitoring of recreational fishing and a buy-back of commercial netting licences.
Claims that the government has cut or redirected funding from the RUF for non-recreational fishing use are simply not true. I can’t put it more clearly than that. The entire amount that is raised through RUF, plus much more, is provided to Fisheries Queensland and is used to fund services related only to recreational fishing.

When I took over the Fisheries portfolio, I was disappointed to learn that some fishing groups such as Sunfish had been allowed to, and were, using government funds for their administration.

I believe the government must concentrate on investing in programs that directly support fishers – all fishers, not just those affiliated with a specific group. This is why the Newman Government has redirected this funding. I believe administration of an industry body such as Sunfish should be paid for by its members. To give you an example, in April this year, Sunfish sent my office a one page proposal asking for $242,000 – proposing the bulk of those funds to go towards administration, operational funding and consultants.

It seems unfair that the money intended to benefit all recreational fishers would go towards a group that represented only three per cent of the 700,000 recreational fishers in Queensland. I would rather see all recreational fishers benefit from every dollar of our investment.

There are numerous inaccuracies in some recent statements by some groups:

· Marine habitat assessment has not been axed – Fisheries Queensland continues to manage programs for the protection of marine plants and freshwater habitat;

· Fishway teams – Fisheries Queensland no longer builds and designs fishways but still provides advice and assesses proposals;

· Recreational fishing unit – Fisheries Queensland’s organisational structure has changed, but its staff are still employed on recreational fishing programs; and

· Assessment and monitoring, Rfish surveys, consultation on management, education and communications, and QBFP compliance are all key services for recreational fishing provided as part of the Fisheries Queensland budget.
It’s also misleading in the extreme to suggest the government only cares about commercial fishing. The current net buy-back scheme has been introduced to address both recreational and commercial fishers’ concerns about the number of licences in the market. This government has listened to all sectors and claims to the contrary are nothing but mischievous.

It is my hope that recreational fishers will see through these blatantly false and misleading claims which are self-serving and intended to distract from the business of sustaining our fisheries for all Queenslanders.

At a time when so much effort is being put into reducing this State’s huge debt levels, and when so many organisations and individuals are playing their part in getting Queensland back on a sound economic path, it is disappointing to have to reject the false claims and self-centred actions of a few.

I know there is more that could be done to assist recreational fishers in Queensland. But it has to be done responsibly, within the tight financial constraints we find ourselves in, and with everyone in mind, not just a select few.
The Newman Government, through Fisheries Queensland, will continue to work with recreational fishers to ensure they are part of the decision-making process on fisheries management. Fishers should not be put off by internal bickering among their representative groups.

I welcome the considered and balanced views of all recreational fishers at all times and I appreciate it when they are sent directly to the government. I just want the views of fishers about government policies and activities to be based on the facts.
I call on those groups to cut out the colourful interpretations of facts and figures, cut out the self-awarded artistic licence and emotion, and let’s handle the truth a little more carefully. That’s what will happen if we genuinely want the best for everyone involved.

John McVeigh MP
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry

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