Recfishwest CEO says recreational fishers have an important role to play in increasing abundance and resilience of fish stocks

Andrew Roland, Recfishwest CEO, pictured at Whitfords Nodes Beach, WA.
Image: Craig Wells

CHANGING environments, populations, technologies, and increasingly, community values are all rapidly impacting on the fishing landscape. CEO of Recfishwest Western Australia’s peak recfish organisation, Andrew Roland, says such changes present huge challenges for the future of rec fishing, but also opportunities.

“As a sector we need to become more agile, savvy and tenacious than ever to meet these challenges,” Andrew explains, “by providing innovative solutions such as stock enhancement, habitat restoration and artificial reef systems, we can help aquatic resource management evolve and future-proof against many of the challenges.”

Often regarded as a final resort to rebuild depleted fish stocks, producing fish fry or fingerlings and releasing them into waters has been used as a management tool to aid the sector meet community expectations about how stock is managed in terms of quality rec fishing, conservation outcomes and subsequent economic benefits.

A strategic stocking program, Andrew says, can allow for “consistent and stable fishing experiences”.

“In years of good recruitment, no stocking may be needed; in years when environmental conditions suggest recruitment may be poor, stocking can take a leading role in a management strategy. The benefits of stocking have long been evident in ‘put and take’ freshwater fisheries around the world. However, there is no reason why stocking programs cannot be applied to a broader range of estuarine and marine species,” he says.

Recfishwest’s ‘Snapper Guardians’ program is one example of how approaching fish stocking differently can provide outcomes of greater community engagement, changed community perceptions and improved fishing experiences.

Artificial reef construction to create highly productive habitats and new fishing havens, as well as nurturing the rec fishing community’s growing participation in citizen science, for example, the community’s mounting involvement in habitat conservation, are among the opportunities that can benefit the sector.

“Recreational fishers have an important role to play in increasing the abundance and resilience of our fish stocks,” Andrew states, “We live in a fast-paced world that is speeding up all the time. We need to not just meet these challenges and opportunities, but get ahead of them.”

“We need to work smart and focus on solutions that benefit our sector, the community and the environment in the weeks, months and years to come. I, for one, relish that responsibility and challenge – bring it on!”

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