With everything thrown at our industry, our resolve may be tested, but we continue to support each other and fight on

The Hon Bob Baldwin

Chair, Australian Fishing Trade Association

AFTA Chairs Report for the AGM 2022


Well, with some good luck, the worst days are behind us, and a brighter future is ahead. There is no doubt the past few years have seen challenges for all in our industry; devastating bushfires across many states, a global pandemic that continues to affect, and massive floods causing widespread damage. Our resolve may be tested, but we continue to support each other and fight on.

Board Meeting Report

In the past year, AFTA has held six meetings, five via Teams and one Face to Face:

AFTA Board Meetings Attendance 2021/2022

Michael Starkey (5)
Mitch Birt (5)
Billy Parsons (5)
Alicia Bolitho (5)
Ben Scales (5)
Stephen Morgan (4)
Kord Luckus (3)
Chris Baty (3)
Michael Wassman (1)

I thank all board members for their input, be it at board meetings or working on numerous issues we have been addressing throughout the year; their personal input and advice at all levels have been invaluable.

Federal Election:

At the 2019 election, our industry drew a line in the sand over changes to the Marine Parks Management Plans, and we took a firm stance, campaigning relentlessly on the issue. We know the 2019 election outcome was influenced by our actions, attacking a bad policy that would be detrimental to fishing.

Sen The Hon. Murray Watt, Minister for Fisheries

Remaining non-partisan, before the 2022 election, AFTA teamed up with the Seafood Industry of Australia, The Boating Industry of Australia, and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation to form an alliance showing our strength through numbers, lobbying all parties for their position on recreational fishing.

There was mixed feedback from each party ranging from the ALP having no specific policy platform on recreational fishing to the incumbent Coalition Government offering underwhelming support for a multi-billion-dollar industry. However, albeit a bit late into the campaign, we achieved a unilateral agreement not to change the current Commonwealth Marine Parks Management Plan.

This was a resounding victory for common sense and the fishing industry.

AFTA looks forward to building a solid working relationship with our new federal Minister, Senator, The Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Emergency Management, in the weeks and months ahead.

The lesson to all involved in policy development and election funding submissions is to have your position in at least 18 months before the election. In Jan 2024, our industry needs to begin the process on what we want for recreational fishing, and AFTA will call upon its members for their feedback to build the case.

I must reiterate that AFTA is fiercely non-partisan. However, it is easy to think that political parties at all levels do not pay the attention that we believe recreational fishers deserve, given the numbers in Australia, and the economic benefit they provide, both directly and indirectly across the nation.

Small Business -Inflation, Wage Increase & Interest Rates

Being in business, particularly small businesses and having “skin in the game” is both a rewarding opportunity and a real risk at the same time. AFTA is made up of business people, albeit at differing levels, but all understand the need to kerb inflation but are helpless to control market forces themselves.

Inflation has come from long periods of historic low-interest rates, compounded by high spending patterns through the COVID crisis, both cash & credit and overseas influences on our domestic market.

We recognise that good workers are hard to recruit & harder to retain; an intelligent business operator recognises & rewards the employee/s who help bring profits to the business as a critical asset awarded in addition to the base level wage.

At a time when small businesses have just come off the various “COVID Life Support” government schemes, after struggling with lockdowns, trying to hold onto staff, reduction in cash flow, dipping into cash reserves, stock availability etc. etc. etc., now was not the time to expect business to up the wage bill by 5.1%.

Perhaps a slower introduction over some time may have been more sustainable; the measure of this 5.1% increase will impact job sustainability.  Employers having to pay higher wages, higher loan interest rates combined with a potential downturn in sales and, therefore, profit due to the consumer cost of living pressures and lack of consumer disposable cash need to consider their position.

The government may see itself as well-intentioned, but this measure at this time is just beyond belief.

QLD – Dealing with Spanish Mackerel

After considerable effort and engagement with AFTA, the Queensland Government had decided to push back the changes to the management of Spanish Mackerel, which were to have been introduced on July 1.   Whilst this appears to have been common sense as there were still several considerations yet to be contemplated and worked through, the Department of Fisheries has now released the 2nd round of consultations.

AFTA’s position has not changed. AFTA Queensland Director Kord Luckus, a renowned and knowledgeable Spanish Mackerel fisher, has a particular interest in this matter and is vociferous in his position.

This, when combined with the efforts of the BIA & GFAA in unison with AFTA, may just mean the difference in making our industry as sustainable as the Queensland Government wish the Spanish Mackerel to be, providing a solution that balances the interests of our members with the longevity and success of the Spanish Mackerel industry.

Our message to members and all Recfishers is simple, if you want to be able to keep fishing for Spanish Mackerel in a sustainable way, then spend the time, read the reports, including AFTA’s response and engage through the survey process, but also importantly with your Local State Politician, so they understand how important this issue is to you.

WA Demersal Cutback Issue


AFTA Chair Bob Baldwin, Brian Marshall – Compleat Angler Nedlands, Tim Farnell – Red Mullet Distributors and Ash & Julie Ramm – Tackle World Miami

AFTA is blessed to have members of the calibre and commitment required in WA to fight this critical issue. Tim Farnell – Red Mullet Distributors & West Australian Family Fishing Alliance (WARFFA), Brian Marshall – Compleat Angler Nedlands, and Ash & Julie Ramm – Tackle World Miami have thus far been instrumental on this matter, and continue to fight the issues on behalf of all recreational fishos in WA.


Brian Mitchell, Ash Ramm, Tim Farnell meeting the Dr Andrew Rowland at RecfishWest

I joined the team for meetings with Dr Andrew Rowland – RecFishWest, and separately Don Punch – WA Minister for Fisheries, to raise the issue of sustainability for both fish biomass and that of our retail and wholesale members.

As a part of the campaign, we undertook store visits to AFTA member and non-member stores. We must unite on this issue, noting it is part of the WA Harvest Strategy, and present our industry’s best case to the government on minimising the impact of reductions that will come from their proposed sustainable management options for Dhufish and Pink Snapper in WA. Click here for more detail.

Victorian Elections in Nov 2022

Minister Sonya Kilkenny, new Minister for Fishing & Boating

Recently with the Andrews Government Cabinet re-shuffle, Minister Sonya Kilkenny was appointed to the portfolios of Minister for Fishing & Boating and Minister for Corrections, Youth Justice, Victim Support.  AFTA congratulates the Minister on her recent appointment and we look forward to working with her on Victorian Fishing Policy.

There is no denying that Victoria has led the way on fisheries management, strongly supported by the current Labor State Government.  Target One Million has been at the core of the state’s policy development, which has seen many initiatives put forward, including supporting local fishing clubs, building fishing reefs and addressing at-risk species, citing but a few.

Matthew Guy, Leader of the Opposition & AFTA Director Billy Parsons

This, combined with a successful fishing licensing program where all funds go back into recreational fishing for recreational fishos, has led to an incredibly healthy fishing environment.

That said, we can’t lose momentum and must continue to drive change and increase access for all recreational fishos.

AFTA met with the Opposition Leader, Matthew Guy & Opposition Spokesperson Bill Tilley on what we are seeking from whoever is in power to come to the election result.

Travis Dowling, Victorian Fishing Authority, AFTA Chair Bob Baldwin & Katherine Grech, Director Better Boating Victoria, Director of Fishing & Boating Infrastructure

Dealing with Departments is critically important. We thank Travis Dowling, Victorian Fishing Authority & Katherine Grech, Director Better Boating Victoria, Director of Fishing & Boating Infrastructure for their perspective on the future of fishing in Victoria is headed.

I thank AFTA Directors Billy Parsons, Ben Scales, Chris Baty, and AFTA Member David Kramer (Tackle World) for local Victorian advice and support on issues such as buy-outs and access to non-exclusive government leased land for fishing and netting closures.  It is hard to be one person across all the issues at times.

Please see AFTA online news for policy considerations being submitted, and don’t hesitate to offer proposals.

NSW Elections in March 2023

Fisheries Minister Dugald Saunders with his local Dubbo fishing group

Newly appointed Fisheries Minister Dugald Saunders hit the road running with one of his first engagements fishing with AFTA member Al McGlashan.  Dugald states he loves his fishing, and we need him and the government to increase the love in a balanced way to benefit all recreational fishers.

The NSW has had a good policy mix over the past term, and AFTA has appreciated the DPI Fisheries Director’s monthly engagement with the peak bodies.  There are current areas of concern but also positive proposals that AFTA recognise and is in the process of engagement with the Government, Opposition and crossbench to promote an agenda for the 2023 election.

NSW Shadow Fisheries Minister, Mick Veitch

AFTA met recently with Shadow Minister Mick Veitch, who reached out to AFTA to ask what we, the industry, want to be reflected in good policy.

As we state to all Opposition Spokespersons, don’t tear down what is working; build on it for a better fishing future.


South Australia

New Minister, Clare Scriven

This year has seen a new government with a new Minister, Clare Scriven and a new direction.

Part of that direction related to recreational fishing is the abolition of the Ministerial Recreational Fishing Advisory Council (MRFAC).

AFTA’s representative, Alicia Bolitho (Tackle World, Port Lincoln), worked tirelessly on Snapper and other state fishing issues to a Minister who simply refused to listen to the sound advice.  There is not much point in having an Advisory Council and then dismissing the advice.

Grant Programs

AFTA has had great success in engaging in the various State Government Recreational Fishing Grant programs.

Let’s Go Fishing – Educating School Children on the Sustainable Benefits of Recreational Fishing

In NSW, AFTA appreciates the continuing investment (Phase 4) the NSW Government have in the “Let’s Fish NSW” Schools program. This joint AFTA/NSW DPI-funded program began in 2016, providing a hands-on educational experience through the Marine Teachers Association. It has run across 127 NSW Schools, with more looking to be involved. I thank AFTA Directors Mitch Birt & Michael Starkey for their work in bringing this together year after year.

“Let’s Fish Australia” Television and Social Media Campaign

AFTA has had great success with grants from South Australia, Queensland & NSW for the program. AFTA is project managing and providing additional funding to get the program rolled out in a coordinated manner. We see this program as one part of a campaign that targets not so much the existing committed fisher, but those who may have dropped from the sport or are interested in increasing or beginning participation.

So far, the “Let’s Fish SA”, Let’s Fish Qld” video campaigns have been released and are available on the AFTA website, with the “Let’s Fish NSW” video campaign to be listed shortly.

I thank President Michael Starkey for developing, producing and overseeing this program.

Indigenous Youth Mobility Pathways – Recreational Fishing Cultural Exchange Program

The Queensland Government, through the QLD DAF fishing grants program, have repeated its investment in the IYMP program for a second year. This is a joint initiative of IYMP, the Queensland Government and AFTA working together to deliver real outcomes.

AFTA is contributing substantial time and money towards these programs to help build our industry, led by QLD Director Kord Luckus.

For full details on all programs, please click here.

In Conclusion

On a personal note, I thank President Michael Starkey for his advice, personal commitment and outstanding efforts in making sure all programs are successfully rolled out and continue to perform. This happens to also be at a time when Michael, his family, and his business are directly impacted by the devastating floods in Northern NSW.

Despite the personal tragedy inflicted by the floods, Michael’s efforts and stoicism make him stand tall above many others. At this time of great adversity, not only did Michael immediately go to the aid of others affected by the flood in his boats, but he and his father, Paul Starkey, turned their minds toward supporting Recfishers who had also lost their fishing gear in the floods with the free distribution of equipment and voucher packages, supported by Frogley’s Offshore, Shimano & Pure Fishing.   Well done all!!

Finally, your directors have each provided excellent leadership and direction through the challenges over the past few years. I say thank you to those retiring and those continuing for your efforts, but we have more to do.

I also appreciate the personal support and advice I receive from Past President Col Tannahill (Shimano)

I wish to put on the record my sincere appreciation for all the work Heatha Nicholas does in communications and membership management.

Tight Lines & Full Tills and I look forward to seeing you at the show.