RecFish responds to Fisho’s articles

Last week we posted an article regarding information Fisho had received on a plan to use $46,000 of NSW fishing licence fees to help prop up RecFish Australia.

See article here.

This article drew a few heated comments after we posted it, and also a formal response from RecFish chairman Russell Conway. The comment from Conway was originally posted with the original story but as it is fairly lengthy we thought we’d reprint it seperately below.

Received May 12 From Russell Conway, Chair, RecFish Australia:

Your Fishing World article provides some good news regarding the RFSTEC Meeting outcome and while Recfish Australia has lodged an application with the NSW Trust, we await the official outcome of that application. I have remained out of the discussion to this point because I believe there was a proper procedure that should have been followed. However, matters have moved on and proceedings will continue as appropriate.

For the record, Recfish Australia had a previous three year funding arrangement with the NSW Trust which ended in 2008. During the time of the previous funding agreement, Recfish Australia delivered significant benefits to NSW recreational fishers, both on national issues of relevance to NSW and on NSW-specific issues. These successes are the subject of regular reports to the NSW Trust which can be accessed from I&I NSW. Of most relevance was the Administrative Appeals Tribunal case surrounding Grey Nurse Sharks. Recfish Australia was able to be a party to the case and fulfilled a role that ACoRF could not. United support from NSW fishers, peak bodies (including spearfishers) and fishing clubs generated substantial money to successfully overturn the appeal which if successful would have seen more protected areas in place which would have negatively impacted on NSW recreational fishers. While tangible outcomes such as FADs and artificial reefs should rightly be funded out of Fishing Trust funds, there is also a need for the less glamorous but equally important role of advocacy, education and policy development. Recfish Australia’s role has never been as a national lobbying organisation and you are encouraged to review our constitution which describes a far broader role than “national lobbying”. This narrow view of Recfish Australia is quite incorrect and is not supported by evidence.

In your article and the blog response, you mention that NSW trust money should not be used to assist the national body. I don’t agree with your proposition because the trust fund money is for the benefit of all recreational fishers who fish in your state, not just those who live in your state. I may be a Victorian, but I have contributed to the NSW trust fund by purchasing an annual NSW licence for the past 10 years. I fish Jindabyne and Port Stephens and am happy to contribute to the improvement of fishing in NSW for all Australian recreational fishers. I also fish in Tasmania and have again purchased fishing licences in that state. I’m sure the Tasmanian trust (as with the NSW trust) allocates my contribution in the best possible way for the improvement of their state’s fishing experience for all recreational fishers who enjoy the Tasmanian fishing experience. When in the NT, while not purchasing a fishing licence, I certainly contribute to the NT economy by engaging guides, purchasing tackle and booking cars and accommodation. My small contribution, when added to the contribution of other recreational fishers around Australia, contributes $billions ( I say again, $billions) to the economy of Australia. The GST take on the contribution of recreational fishers would have to be greater than one $billion. However, with all this economic benefit, we are still unable to get a meagre funding assistance from the Commonwealth. Numerous other industry representative bodies are funded through Commonwealth funding initiatives – it is a testament to the lack of understanding of the value of recreational fishing that we have not been able to convince the Commonwealth to continue the funding of Recfish.

Fishing is now more than just a state based activity. Cheap air-fares and improved information and access to fishing locations have changed the fishing patterns of a vast number of recreational fishers around Australia. Recreational fishers need to think of their sport as more than just a simple pastime. The government already recognises our “pastime” as a major industry and is looking for us to put up solid proposals and well considered initiatives to demonstrate that we also understand the magnitude of our contribution to the economy. We should be managing our industry in the same responsible, mature manner that other billion industries manage their industry. Personality and political issues that distract us from the real challenges just serve to demonstrate that we need to improve our performance or we will be marginalised.

I see the lack of funding being a result of the government’s poor view of the ability of recreational fishers to work together to improve and develop their own fishing experience. We don’t need anyone else to divide and conquer us, we do a great job of that strategy all by ourselves. Eighteen months ago, when the Recfish funding issue commenced, recreational fishers and fishing organisations should have rallied behind Recfish to ensure the organisation received the required funding to continue operating and continue to concentrate on addressing recreational fisher related issues. However, as a result of various negative campaigns and general apathy, the organisation had to split its resources in numerous directions with an unnecessary focus on funding issues. Len has done a tremendous job considering the circumstances – just imagine how much more we could have done had he been able to concentrate on the important issues affecting Australian recreational fishers. Just think how much more we could have contributed, if there had been positive support from the industries that depend so heavily on the expenditure of recreational fishers across Australia.

Recreational fishers are impacted from a number of fronts – from state government policy, local and global environmental conditions, demographic changes, national policy changes and international fishing procedure and policy changes introduced by other countries. The form and number of impacts are too numerous to be covered by a simplistic state-centric view. We need to have responsible “recreational fisher based” organisations looking after our fishing experience from both the state and national viewpoints. Working in any other manner allows the sort of policy problems that caused the Mako Shark issue to get through our watching brief. Had it not been for some very quick work from a small band of passionate fishers (John Willis, Ben Scullin, Trevor Buck, Shane Korth to name just a few from Victoria), VRFish, TARFish, GFAA, ANSA, RFA, ACORF, Recfish and some of our political supporters, ten of thousands of sport fishers across Australia would now be barred from fishing for one of our iconic sport-fishing species. It was one of the few times when recreational fishers have actually worked together to represent ourselves on a shared cause. It should happen more often and it should have happened when Recfish was calling for support.

A very real threat to NSW recreational fishers is the Marine Bioregional Planning process which will see significant marine protected areas in Commonwealth Waters before the end of 2012. Recfish Australia has engaged with the Australian Government and Minister Garrett on a regular basis over the past 18 months to try and ensure a positive outcome for all recreational fishers, especially NSW fishers. So far, we have managed to maintain a positive dialogue and working with other national partners, we have seen the consultation period for public comment extend from 60 days to 90 days.

We continue to enjoy considerable support from our members as well some industry groups including Marine Queensland who have extended both in-kind and direct assistance to Recfish Australia. We also continue to attract new members including our most recent application from the Freshwater Fishing and Stocking Association of Queensland. With recent changes to our constitution approved, we expect to attract even more members and build better partnerships. Our relationship with the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation as one of their representative bodies is as strong as ever with FRDC renewing funding for our Recfishing Research initiative for the next three years. This program is absolutely vital to ensure that recreational fishing projects continue to get funding and the list of NSW recreational fishing projects that have been supported by Recfishing Research is impressive and includes research on released fish survival and fish stock enhancement. Without Recfish Australia “lobbying” for these projects, it’s quite possible that they would never have seen the light of day in the highly competitive world of fisheries research funding. We also challenge the so called pundits who believe that Recfish Australia’s days are done. Recfish has faced similar funding challenges in the past as have our member organisations including Recfishwest and VRFish and has emerged stronger and even more resolute.

I have nothing but praise and admiration for the members of the NSW committee who approved the Recfish application. They demonstrated that they are able to think outside the state-centric view and were definitely thinking for the future of all Australian recreational fishers. They made a very difficult and it seems, controversial decision, to ensure that the body that has been working extremely hard to ensure NSW fishers and all Australian fishers have an effective organisation working on their behalf at the national level.

I sincerely hope the decision made by the Trust Fund Committee is supported during the next stages of the grant process and the forward thinking attitude of these recreational fishers is adopted by other fishing related organisations and government bodies when deciding on the allocation of funds entrusted to them by Australian recreational fishers.

In reality, there will always be a role for a responsible, credible peak national body for recreational fishers. Recfish Australia has had 27 years experience in this role and continues to evolve and change to meet the challenges of modern recreational fisheries advocacy and management.

Happy to discuss these and any other issues that affect recreational fishers.

Kind Regards,

Russell Conway
Recfish Australia.









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