AFTA Chair’s Report – December 2023

“AFTA will always fight the battles for recreational fishers that others seem to ignore or go silent on!”

Hon.Bob Baldwin

Independent Chair, AFTA


Last month, AFTA celebrated with Queensland Fisheries Minister Mark Furner on the announcement to remove gill nets in the GBRMP. However, we have now found unintended consequences, particularly the potential for displaced license holders to fish in the areas above the yellow zone of the Mary River.

AFTA has now made representations to the Minister to seek clarification and an urgent remedy concerning the planned removal of the Sandy Straights Marine Park netting exemption.

This removal will effectively leave the area of the Mary River above the yellow zone extremely vulnerable to an exponential increase in netting.

The issue of great concern is that this section of the Mary River is in the migratory path of many key recreational species and, as such, is entirely at odds with your recent announcement of an action plan to remove gill nets in Qld and, in particular local efforts to restore the Sandy Straights to a key recreational fishing tourism destination through the removal of the yellow zone exemption to netting.

AFTA urges Minister Furner to use whatever powers within his means to act and stop the use of gill nets in the Mary River immediately and not just consider the issue in the second quarter of 2024.

The progressive elimination of commercial Gill Netting will begin on 31 December 2023 throughout North Qld, and the GBRMP. AFTA has asked that the Mary River be included ASAP in that elimination program with fair and adequate compensation to the commercial fishers.

We congratulate Minister Mark Furner in retaining his portfolio of Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities in the Miles Government reshuffle.  On balance Mark has been very good for the recreational fishing industry in Qld and we look forward to continuing to work together for the betterment of recreational fishing.

AFTA Chair Bob Baldwin stating our unequivocal support for the Gill Net Ban

Western Australia

The West Coast demersal season re-opens on 16 December and closes on 1 February 2024.

The 2024 Demersal closures are:

1 February to 28 March 2024 (inclusive)​
1 August to 20 September 2024 (inclusive)
7 Octo​ber to 15 December 2024 (inclusive)

Enough said on a very poorly managed recreational fishery …. bring on the WA election on 8 March 2025, where WA recreational fishers can present their personal opinion at the ballot box!


As I said last month, AFTA attended the inaugural online stakeholders planning meeting to establish the “NSW Peak Recreational Fishing Body”.

From feedback gained at the meeting, the government is now establishing a steering committee to shape and define the actual role of a peak body entirely, the governance requirements, and the independence of the peak body board. 

Sustainable Oceans Plan

On 29 November, I attended a 3-hour Teams Meeting with senior departmental officials of the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment, and Water (DCCEEW) at the workshop to inform the development of Australia’s Sustainable Ocean Plan.

Our Prime Minister committed to developing a Sustainable Ocean Plan as Australia’s member of the 18-country High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. The panel is helping drive the transition to sustainable ocean economies worldwide. The development of national sustainable ocean plans is a crucial step in implementing this vision, and this workshop was designed to assist the Commonwealth government in developing a proactive policy plan for our ocean environment.   

The meeting sought to discuss the key issues and opportunities Australia’s Sustainable Ocean Plan needs to address and their implications for a healthy marine environment and sustainable ocean economy. The future casting activity focused on setting our sights on a vision and alternative ideas for a sustainable ocean and the contribution and value of the plan to reach that vision.

While most attendees commented on climate change and its impact, I focused on sustainable harvesting, proper resource sharing between the commercial, recreational, and indigenous sectors, and the impacts of microplastics in the oceans on all marine life.

Microplastics are non-purposely ingested by marine life and have downstream effects on all marine life, whether it is fish, mammals, corals, or seaweeds/seagrass.

On that, I quote:

Australian Institute of Marine Science:

Plastic pollution is being found throughout oceans around the world, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This global issue is attracting growing concern due to its effect on marine organisms and ecosystems. To protect the health and resilience of our tropical marine ecosystems, we (AIMS) are determining the presence, effects, and sources of microplastics.

Microplastics are plastic items that are smaller than 5 mm and can have a variety of shapes, such as particles or fibres. Based on their origin, they are generally divided up into primary microplastics, such as microbeads in face wash and toothpaste, or secondary microplastics, such as fragments from plastic bags or fibres from textiles

 National Geographic

There are two categories of microplastics: primary and secondary.

Primary microplastics are tiny particles designed for commercial use, such as cosmetics, as well as microfibers shed from clothing and other textiles, such as fishing nets. Secondary microplastics are particles that result from the breakdown of larger plastic items, such as water bottles. This breakdown is caused by exposure to environmental factors, mainly the sun’s radiation and ocean waves.

The problem with microplastics is that—like plastic items of any size—they do not readily break down into harmless molecules. Plastics can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose—and in the meantime, wreak havoc on the environment. On beaches, microplastics are visible as tiny multicoloured plastic bits in sand. In the oceans, microplastic pollution is often consumed by marine animals.

Some of this environmental pollution is from littering, but much is the result of storms, water runoff, and winds that carry plastic—both intact objects and microplastics—into our oceans. Single-use plastics—plastic items meant to be used just once and then discarded, such as a straw—are the primary source of secondary plastics in the environment.

Microplastics have been detected in marine organisms from plankton to whales, in commercial seafood, and even in drinking water. Alarmingly, standard water treatment facilities cannot remove all traces of microplastics. To further complicate matters, microplastics in the ocean can bind with other harmful chemicals before being ingested by marine organisms.


The principal activity of the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation is to educate, research and promote sustainable fishing activities for Australia’s recreational fishing community.

The ARFF will hold its AGM on 18 December; AFTA is a member but not a director of the ARFF.

ARFF received 4 Director nominations by the closing date of 4 December.

  1. Cassie Price – OzFish Unlimited (OzFish)
  2. Ian Bladin – Game Fishing Association of Australia (GFAA)
  3. Russell Conway – Australian Underwater Federation (AUF)
  4. David Ciaravolo – Amateur Fishermen’s Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT)

As the number of Director nominees is less than the number of Director vacancies, an election process will not be necessary ahead of the AGM, and all four nominees will be appointed. However, ARFF also received three nominations after the closure date. ARFF has proposed the membership consider a motion during the meeting to increase the number on the Board to seven to incorporate all nominees.

  1. Jane Gallichan – TARFish
  2. Andrew Rowland – RecFish West
  3. Asher Dezsery – RecFish SA


I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year, 2023 has been a tough year in various parts of Australia, but we battled through it …. together as we will in 2024.

As I write I offer my thoughts and prayers to those affected by Cyclone Jasper, the personal toll on people this close to Christmas is immense and whatever support we can offer will be appreciated.

Until the new year ….. Tight Lines & Full Tills