Tackle company shows the way in conservation

Globetrotting Fisho contributor Martin Salter recently attended the first workshop held in Europe by The Berkley Conservation Institute, the environmental arm of the global tackle giants Pure Fishing. Inevitably Martin’s work in compiling the influential Keep Australia Fishing report was heavily referenced in proceedings that could shape the way that the tackle trade lobbies for the future of our sport.

Back in 2010 when I was asked to put together my report looking at good and bad practice in the governance, promotion and management of recreational fishing and what were the lessons for Australian rec fishers the role of the tackle trade was a highly sensitive issue. There was an all but dysfunctional peak body, RecFish Australia, whose funding had been cut and which was existing on life support thanks to the voluntary efforts of a few dedicated individuals. The state bodies were at various stages of development and effectiveness and were largely dependent on largesse from their state governments – not a healthy place to be as I went on to argue. The one national voice was the Australian Fishing Trades Association (AFTA) whose relationship with the individual representative peak bodies was uncomfortable to say the least.

I have never shared the view that the guys who sell us our rods and reels should be the same group who determine how our licence monies are spent. Almost every model of good recreational fishing governance and practice that I had found around the world had a strong role for both representative peak bodies and the tackle trade. We need to be partners, not rivals, in a common endeavour. I guess what my report did was to point a way forward whereby the peak bodies and the tackle trade could come together under the Keep Australia Fishing banner to lobby and campaign on the issues that matter to recreational fishing.

It was therefore pleasing to see the formation of the new grouping here in Australia last year with the following terms of reference:

Keep Australia Fishing

Keep Australia Fishing is a group of recreational fishing enthusiasts who are concerned that the future of recreational fishing in Australia is under threat. The organisation has been established through the support of the recreational fishing community, including Australia’s fishing trade wholesalers and retailers and state and national recreational fishing organisations.


To engage with Australia’s recreational fishing community, to protect, promote and develop the opportunities of recreational fishing through:

Educational activities that promote the benefits of recreational fishing;

Communication activities that raise the awareness and accessibility of recreational fishing to all Australians;

Advocacy activities that aim to protect the present and future opportunities of Australia’s recreational anglers;

Conduct other activities that support the ethic of “Keep Australia Fishing”

Your support can help Keep Australia Fishing to make sure the voice of Australia’s recreational fishing community is heard in the right way and in the right places.


What next?

This was great stuff and there is no doubt the KAF really raised the profile of recreational fishing as an issue in the recent federal election, even if personally I baulk at getting too involved with one side of politics. What is missing from this fine list of objectives is any specific acknowledgement of the need to get rec fishing organisations actively engaged in conserving the very resource on wish our sport depends.

As I’ve written before, conservation is too often regarded as a dirty word in some rec fishing circles and it really is time that more progress was made in this area. Of course there are some great examples like the work of Craig Copeland and the Fishers for Fish Habitat Network in NSW and the enlightened approach to protecting recreational fisheries in NT but compared to the USA and Europe, Australia is behind the curve when it comes rec fishing groups engaging with environmental campaigning.

My recent trip to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon as a guest of Pure Fishing was a real eye opener. The workshop was entitled Exploring threats to recreational and sport fishing across Europe and was seeking to “examine conflicts between recreational fisheries and EU policy and other legislative frameworks and explore how to best resolve such conflicts. This seminar, supported by Pure Fishing, will provide the opportunity to draw on global experiences to meet this objective.”

I was there representing the UK peak body, The Angling Trust, along with my colleague Jan Kappel from the European Angler’s Alliance and a number of prominent fishery scientists from the US, England and Portugal.

We soon discovered that the world’s largest tackle manufacturer is alive to the need to play its part in protecting and conserving fish, fishing and fisheries. Back in 2005 they set up the Berkley Conservation Institute (BCI) to support conservation and angler recruitment efforts. They cooperate with fishing groups, conservation organisations, customers and other industry partners to protect all fishable waters.

The stated aim of this collaboration is “to enhance populations of important sport fish and to introduce the next generation to the delight of angling … and to teach them to lead the fight for conservation. This passion for stewardship has been a foundation of our company for over 70 years.” They are advised by a Conservation Leaders Advisory Team of scientists, sportsfishers and academics from the USA and Europe and are led by Director of Conservation Jim Martin and CEO John Doerr.

It’s worth checking out the inspiring work of Jim Martin and the Berkley Conservation Institute HERE.

Talking to both Jim and John over a beer or three in Lisbon it was clear to me that these guys not only appreciate the importance of protecting the resource upon which recreational fishing depends but are keen to find new ways to build greater public and political support for what we do. Most of us look across to the USA with envy when it comes to the political clout that rec fishing can deliver and the resources available via the licence fee income and levy on tackle and boat fuel sales. But the guys from Pure Fishing have realised that our sport is at a crossroads with increasing pressure on the resource from expanding populations, commercial overfishing and a host of other distractions that means that the next generation of anglers could be harder to attract.

Every year the BCI invites angling clubs or chapters to apply for their Outstanding Conservation Award presented in partnership with the US sportsfishing group B.A.S.S., in honour of the best conservation and angler recruitment and retention projects. The Institute awards a $2,000 cash prize for the best conservation project and $1,500 in fishing gear for the best angler recruitment/retention project.

As Berkley’s Conservation Director, Jim Martin says:

“This program represents our partnership to celebrate those who work each year to give back to the resource that supports our wonderful sport and to those who work to recruit the next generation of passionate anglers. Berkley is more than just line and bait, and B.A.S.S. is so much more than just fishing tournaments. We want to thank you, to celebrate your project, to contribute support to your organization and to inspire others to follow your lead.”

An Environmental Agenda for Recreational Fishers

My own presentation in Lisbon covered the steps leading up to the establishment of Keep Australia Fishing and some of the prerequisites for a healthy fishing future including the need for rec fishers to embrace the environmental agenda. This included:

Recreational fishing to re-position with environmental agenda;
Highlight existing good work in freshwater habitat restoration;
Devote resources to community education programmes;
Make common cause against commercial over fishing.

And this quote…

“There is no future in having recreational fishers in one corner and environmentalists in the other, without a healthy aquatic environment and a sustainably managed fishery there will be no recreational fishing in the long term.”

Now it’s your country and there’s no reason why you guys should have to listen to a Pom like me or bunch of Yanks and Europeans from the other side of the planet. However, when the world’s largest fishing tackle corporation starts putting hard earned resources and dollars into conservation projects and environmental campaigns and partnerships you might just conclude that there is something in this stuff.



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