THE importance of recreational fishing to the Australian economy, as well as the role anglers can play as “stewards” of marine and freshwater environments, were among the issues discussed at the National Recreational Fishing Conference, held on the Gold Coast on the weekend.
The conference, organised by the Australian Fishing Trade Association and RecFish Australia, attracted more than 170 delegates from around the nation. Some 40 presentations, covering topics as diverse as “Climate change and recreational fishing in South East Australia”, “the next WOW in fishing tackle”, “habitat enhancement for improved angling experience” and “fish for the future: how do we catch our young fishers”, were staged over the two-day event.
Keynote speaker Martin Salter, the former British MP who wrote the ground-breaking “Keep Australia Fishing” report, opened the conference with a stirring speech aimed at inspiring anglers to take control of their political future by setting agendas, rather than simply reacting to the anti-fishing campaigns of extremist green groups such as Pew.
Keynote speaker Martin Salter. Image: Steve Spencer
The imminent arrival of the Dutch-owned super trawler the FV Margiris was a topic of much discussion at the conference, with federal Fisheries Minister Senator Joe Ludwig, who gave a short speech before making a hasty exit, coming under sustained pressure to ban the 142m trawler from Australian waters. A hard-hitting speech by RecFish founder Graham Pike which details the political deal-making and scientific whitewashing that has marked this super trawler issue is available HERE (specifically pages 5-8).
Image: Steve Spencer
On a more positive note, speeches by two overseas presenters, Chris Hunt from Trout Unlimited in the US and Simon Evans, from the Wye and Usk Foundation in the UK, were widely regarded as being highly inspirational and informative.
Hunt, the national communications director for TU, gave details on various campaigns this rec-fishing conservation organisation has been involved with in America over the past 50 years. The influence and political clout TU has, and the positive work it does in regards to improving habitat and maximising angling opportunities in key US trout fisheries, is little short of amazing. This organisation employs 150 full time staff across America and is regarded as the leader in proactive environmentalism. The success of TU, and the outstanding work it does, sets a major challenge for Australian angling organisations to step up to the plate and achieve the same sort of results.
Equally inspirational was the presentation by Simon Evans, who is in charge of the Wye river system on the border between England and Wales. This system, which is similar in size to any number of rivers on the east coast of Australia, was known as being a premier salmon fishery, as well as providing good trout and coarse fishing. Centuries of agricultural mismanagement resulted in significant environmental damage with a resultant collapse of fish stocks. Innovative restoration projects co-ordinated by Evans and his team, as well as major investment of money, has resulted in the Wye and his various tributaries now boasting healthy and growing populations of salmon, brown trout and various other species.
Apart from presentations outlining the positive environmental work anglers can achieve, the socio-economic benefits of rec fishing was also discussed at length at the conference. Details of projects studying the value of gamefishing and freshwater fishing revealed that angling remains a hidden giant in relation to its economic contribution, especially in regional areas. The value of fishing to society, especially in regards to young people and the disabled, was the subject of various speeches, including one by Sydney-based ANSA spokesman Tony Steiner, who gave a moving presentation on the positive and therapeutic role carp fishing plays for a group of disabled people.
The conference concluded last night, giving way to the annual AFTA tackle show. Fisho will be reporting on all the new gear that’s going to be released over the next couple of days so stay tuned for our articles, videos and Facebook updates! We understand AFTA and newly formed lobby organisation Keep Australia Fishing have a raft of protest actions concerning the supertrawler and the federal marine parks plans organised for the coming days. Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is expected to release a statement at the tackle show supporting the anti-marine parks campaign. Stay tuned!