The ABARE – National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers 2018-2021 Survey is a critical tool in helping to shape the future direction of recreational fishing nationally and, equally importantly, the recreational fishing industry, whether at the retail, wholesale, manufacturing or charter fishing operator level across the nation.

AFTA Chairs Report February 2023



With the ABARES National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers 2018-2021 now released (Executive Summary available here), AFTA President Michael Starkey said on behalf of AFTA: 

This Survey is a critical tool in shaping the future direction of recreational fishing nationally and, as importantly, the recreational fishing industry whether at the retail, wholesale, manufacturer or charter fishing operator level across the nation.”

“AFTA has always been confident that our industry was growing, and this Survey reflects our industry’s strong position despite COVID lockdowns’ impacts. With 1 in 5 Australians (4.2m up from 3.4m in 2000) now participating in recreational fishing over 28 million fishing days a year, noting this measure does not include those under 18 years old or over 65.”  

“Clearly, our AFTA members deserve a pat on the back for being the frontline drivers of this growth.”    

AFTA acknowledges that for the first time, the Survey has strengthened the focus toward the broader economic contribution of the recreational fishing industry and not just tackle sales as a value measurement.   

The value of the recreational fishing industry as an employer is in excess of 100,000 FTE jobs and on the whole contributes $11b directly and indirectly to the GDP across Australia.   

This proactive measurement model strengthens AFTA’s argument as we demonstrate the potential economic impacts of political decisions on our industry.” 

As AFTA has continually pointed out to our elected officials, Recreational fishing has substantial health benefits, both through exercise and, more particularly, mental health benefits. This has been validated in the Survey”. 

In summary, the National Social and Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers 2018-2021 clearly demonstrates our industries’ contribution to the nation’s Triple Bottom Line (TBL) through Economic, Social & Environment contributions.”



Ultimate Fishing Expo (18 & 19th Feb)

AFTA attended the Ultimate Fishing Expo weekend at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre to support AFTA members and the broader industry and judging by the crowds, it was clearly a success.

It was great to catch up with Rob Mitchell, Federal Labor Member for McEwen and David Kramer, former Tackle World Director and now a Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) official.

As an industry, we need to engage with more politicians across all levels and political parties to actively support our industry at all times, not just during election times. AFTA, thank you, Rob, for making the effort.

It was great to see AFTA members:  Pat Levy & Billy Parsons from JM Gillies, Steve Threlfall (Trelly) and the team on his huge retail stand, Bill Classon & his team from AFN, Rick & Jo Dobson from Aussie Angler, Jason Portelli from Tonic Eyewear, Steve Lewis from SWL Distributions, Brett Tait from Tangaroa Blue Foundation, Darren Rachow from Powa Beam, Paul, Cristy & Jet Worsteling from IFish Productions, and the Shimano team represented by David Moss with the crowd attracting Shimano Fish Tank, attend the show and let’s hope they reap the benefits for there efforts.

I always believe “if they win, we win”, and from what I observed over the two days, it certainly looked that way.

World Recreational Fishing Conference (WRFC10) Feb 20 – 22

The WRFC held at the Melbourne Exhibition & Conference Centre on the 20-22 February can only be hailed as an outstanding success in positioning Australia’s recreational fishing industry onto the global stage.

With the official opening by the newly appointed Minister for Outdoor Recreation, The Hon. Sonya Kilkenny, it is clear the Victorian Government will not be resting on its laurels but is determined to grow the industry even further.

AFTA welcomes the investment announcement of $1.6m to provide 60,000 fishing outfits to young students across Victoria, a positive step in growing the industry into the future.

Congratulations must go to CEO Travis Dowling and his team at the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) for bringing together renowned expert speakers from both within Australia and across the globe. The calibre of speakers on all aspects of fisheries management, sustainability and the impacts of climate change was more than impressive.

Western Australia


It’s hard not to admire the stoicism and personal efforts of AFTA members in WA in taking the initiative of actively promoting fishing for species not affected by the Government’s imposed Demersal Fishing ban.

The WA government has a lot to answer for, particularly the sheer incompetence in allowing commercial fishing to continue whilst banning recreational fishing during the all-important spawning season.

This action demonstrates an apparent ineptitude in scientific high-level fisheries management. Any reasonable person would have to ask, where is the scientific and bureaucratic expertise in making these recommendations to the Minister??

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New South Wales

With the NSW election barely a month away (25 March), recreational fishers eagerly await each political party’s release of policy details.

Mark Latham, One Nation, has been first off the block with their policy; read it here.

In response to members’ feedback, AFTA put the following issues to all political parties for consideration ahead of their policy document release:

  1. Establishing the NSW Women in Recreational Fishing program (WIRF). This program originated in Victoria and has now spread to Qld; a very successful program of engagement and inclusion and should be part of any inclusive policy.
  2. The need for increased Western Sydney fishing access. This became very evident during the COVID lockdown experience when people of the west were confined to their LGA. For a population about the same as the rest of NSW, increasing the local fishing opportunities for Western Sydney in Dams & Reservoirs will create more options and opportunities, which means more tackle sold in that area.
  3. Jewfish fishery management, we need a proper harvest-sharing process that begins with reviewing commercial netting practices and overall compliance.
  4. Action on the Great Lakes – Port Stephens Marine Park, a well and truly overdue review.
  5. The establishment of the next round of Recreational Fishing Havens – just like the last round funded by a loan that the Recreational Fishing Licence fees paid off.
  6. Increase the number of hatcheries and a dedicated marine hatchery to help recruit and stock important recreational species. While current stocking is coming out of the research hatcheries, it is nowhere near the levels needed to make a real difference and boost the RFH stocks.
  7. Improving the quality and surety of access in rural and riverine areas. Currently, it’s a multi-departmental minefield and, by default, locks up a lot of areas that should be accessible to our customers. Victoria does this exceptionally well with the recent legislative changes allowing access to leasehold waterfront land.
  8. Addressing the Qld Spanish Mackerel decision and the potential impacts on NSW with pressure from QLD to close our fishery in line with the QLD DPI.

As AFTA receives the submitted policies from the political parties, AFTA will post the policy documents on the AFTA website and provide an impartial analysis of what is on offer to our industry.

Charter Boat & Fishing Guide Operators

AFTA recently contacted Charter Boat & Fishing Guide operators across Australia to inform them of the work that AFTA does in government policy lobbying to keep our industry fishing and all sectors viable as business units.

The response to date has been very good. AFTA will keep those involved in the recreational fishing industry informed so we can grow the industry together for an all-round mutual benefit.

AFTA welcomes Charter Boat & Fishing Guide operators to join AFTA; this will aid in strengthening our whole industry representative lobbying position.

Tight Lines

The Hon. Bob Baldwin
AFTA Independent Chair