AFTA Chair’s Report – March 2024

“Whilst AFTA fully supports the closure of any fishery when there is clear scientific evidence to show that this is the only way to sustain the fishery.  AFTA does not support the closure of any fishery without clear scientific evidence to support the closure.”

Hon.Bob Baldwin

Independent Chair, AFTA

VICTORIA

AFTA members Bill Classon (AFN) and AFTA Vice President Billy Parsons (JM Gillies) brought forward an issue that should be of extreme concern to all anglers in Victoria and across Australia.

Ben Scullin, VRFish, advised AFTA of moves afoot, driven by the RSPCA, the Greens & the Animal Justice Party to implement bans and penalties on recreational fishing after the Government’s failure to explicitly exempt fishing events from its new Animal Care and Protection Bill.

The RSPCA Policy C11 Angling, adopted in 2016, wants to severely impede recreational fishing.

Recreational fishing currently has a legislative exemption/non-application (s6 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986). Recreational fishers need the current exemptions under Section 6 for fishing replicated in the new legislation rather than the specific exceptions as stated.

VRFish’s concerns with the draft Bill are the potential prosecution of catch-and-release fishers, fishing club competitions, tournament businesses and charter fishing operations. In addition, there are real concerns over 3rd party civil litigation by well-funded animal welfare groups to seek injunctions on fishing competitions.

This matter has also been raised with Travis Dowling, CEO Victorian Fisheries who stated it should not negatively impact on our industry.  AFTA have also sought an urgent meeting with Minister Steven Dimopoulous to discuss the matter.

Recreational fishers should look at the proposed changes and be informed of the actions that can potentially impact our industry.

Even though the consultation closed on Sunday, the 24th of March, AFTA will continue to work with VRFish, the Victorian Government & the VFA to mitigate the impact. Members and customers should also contact their local state member of parliament to raise their concerns.

NSW

I met with Minister Tara Moriarty (6th of March) to raise concerns over the decision to ban the Eastern Blue Groper for recreational fishers and the broader impact it will have on the recreational fishing industry in NSW.

Whilst AFTA fully supports the closure of any fishery when there is clear scientific evidence to show that this is the only way to sustain the fishery, AFTA does not support the closure of any fishery without clear scientific evidence to support the closure.

AFTA has supported the existing spearfishing ban on Eastern Blue Groper introduced in 1969 and from commercial fishing since 1980. Indeed, AFTA would support more substantial penalties for those who knowingly take these iconic fish, but the total ban and penalties should not have been expanded to include recreational fishers.

Minister Moriarty has undertaken to consult over the next 12 months and review her decision; AFTA has requested a seat at the table for these decision-making discussions, with that AFTA members’ input will be critical to the future outcome. In that vein, the Government have opened a “Have Your Say” on the recent Eastern Blue Groper rule changes.

AFTA & NSW DPI encourage the public to have their say on the 12-month trial of rule changes to Eastern Blue Groper. Submissions close at 5pm on the 30th of April 2024.

QUEENSLAND

Qld AFTA Director Kord Luckus (Wilson Fishing) and I attended a private meeting (the 4th of March) with Minister Mark Furner to discuss issues of concern for recreational fishers in Queensland.

Concerns include the Spanish Mackerel boat limit of 1 per person or a max of 2 per boat, the future of Gill Netting in the Mary River, and the snapper & black jewfish fishery.

Minister Furner revealed that he is now preparing for the removal of Gill Nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria; this is good news for sustainability, not just for our fishery, but for Dugongs, Sawfish, Turtles, Dolphins, and other discarded bycatch.

The Minister stated he was very keen for rec fishers to have direct input into Queensland’s recreational fishing policy to help shape the future of our sector. With that, the Minister released the Recreational Fishing in Queensland Consultation Paper and a “Have Your Say” which closes at 5:00pm on the 5th of May 2024.

With the success of AFTA Tackle Show – Public Day, we have requested Qld Government sponsorship support again this year to enable it to remain a free public event on Saturday, the 17th of August.

AFTA has invited Minister Furner to open the 2024 show, as he has done twice before; in doing so, we encouraged him to bring parliamentary colleagues of all persuasions along so they can also witness the positive public reaction to recreational fishing.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The SA Government and recreational fishers have had a significant win with Offshore Windfarms no longer being proposed in South Australian waters, well done. It is a shame that more governments around Australia don’t accept the science that Offshore wind farms will impact marine life.

TASMANIA – Election analysis

The outcome of the election is …… well, who knows???

At this stage it is increasingly looking like it will be a hung parliament with neither major party securing enough seats to govern in their own right.  Whilst initial counting has the Liberal Party with more seats than Labor, the full count will decide the composition of the parliament and then it will be who can cut a deal with either the independent cross bench or the Greens.

It does not provide a clear mandate direction, and any election policy promises or government direction is up for bids.   This is the very political instability that sent Tasmania to an early election, and further instability may very well see it repeated in the near future.

AFTA is fiercely politically non-partisan, AFTA’s only agenda is what benefits recreational fishers and our industry, not which party forms government.

It was somewhat disappointing that the major political parties left it until the week before the election (23rd March) to publish their respective policy’s for recreational fishing.  This was despite written requests to all Tasmanian political parties by both AFTA and TARFISH well ahead of the election date.

Voters were able to pre-poll vote since the 4th March and had no idea what the fishing future held for them under the next government and that is disappointing given the upheavals and uncertainty with the recent scale fishery review.

Perhaps earlier positive, strong policy announcements would have secured more support and helped alleviate the potential for a hung parliament.

In Tasmania, 26.2% of adults participate in recreational fishing, being much higher than the Australian average of 21.4%. The recreational fishing industry in Tasmania contributes an estimated $270 million to the state economy and 2,670 full-time equivalent jobs. This includes $113 million and 1,120 jobs in Hobart, and $157 million and 1,550 jobs in other parts of Tasmania. The Tasmanian recreational fishing industry directly employs 1,225 jobs in charter fishing, sales of fishing equipment, tackle and bait, and in accommodation and retail businesses used by recreational fishers.   Source: FRDC Social & Economic Survey of Recreational Fishers 2018-21

The Tasmanian recreational fishing trade comprises 51 independent tackle stores, 4 BCF stores, 4 Anaconda Stores, 1 manufacturer (Tassie Devil Lures), 2 wholesalers, 6 agency representatives, multiple service station outlets and holiday parks, plus the retail outlets KMART and Big W.

The Tasmanian Association for Recreational Fishing (TARFISH) submitted an election priority manifesto to the political parties for consideration.    AFTA fully support the TARFISH policy submission and the TARFISH review of each major party’s policy position for the next term of government.

NORTHERN TERRITORY – GILL NET BUYBACK

Following up on the visit to the Northern Territory, AFTA submitted a formal request to both Recreational Fishing Minster, Joel Bowden MLA & Gerard Maley MLA, Opposition spokesperson on Recreational Fishing, proposing the buyback on the 14 commercial gill net licenses.

AFTA’s position is that we want to see a phase out of gill nets in the Territory. We respectfully suggest the NT government follow the lead of the Qld Government, supported by the Federal Government, in this action going forward. This has been raised with Qld Minister Mark Furner as well to provide some political insight and guidance.

AFTA will work with the Government & Opposition for the buyback of commercial gill net licenses. AFTA disagrees with the long-term concept of quota limits introduced this year.

Aquaculture is an extremely viable and sustainable source of Barramundi from the Northern Territory; in fact, Humpty Doo Barramundi produces over 6000 tonnes of Barramundi per year. More can be done.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Our WA-based AFTA members are continually driving an information agenda with regular meetings and briefings across the political spectrum across various issues, from fishing closures & bans on marine parks & windfarms, to name a few.

The WA Offshore Windfarm proposal has now been released, and submissions are due on the 3rd of May. AFTA has genuine concerns about the impacts on our recreational fishing industry from offshore wind farms, particularly the little details released with each plan.

With all of the government comments on the need for wind-powered renewable energy, I am at a loss as to why they need to locate it offshore when it could be perhaps more beneficial to place the wind farm on land with the prevailing wind pattern locally referred to as the Fremantle Doctor as indeed the existing WA onshore windfarms have done.

The Fremantle Doctor is the Western Australian term for the cooling afternoon sea breeze, which can be quite strong, often blowing between 15 and 20 knots (28 and 37 km/h; 17 and 23 mph) that occurs during summer months in south-west coastal areas of Western Australia. The sea breeze occurs because of the significant temperature difference between the land and sea.

The planned Southern Marine Park Zones have created deep concern across our industry. It is appreciated that with local knowledge, RECFISHWEST has provided some detailed analysis of the proposals and possible measures to mitigate the impact on recreational fishers.

Whilst the collective population across the Great Australian Bight is not large, the tourist visitation, particularly to fish, is high. Restrictions on accessible fishing spots will impact the Nullabor crossing tourism.

To quote Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland, “Proposing no-fishing zones in front of caravan parks, boat ramps and along several popular beaches demonstrates marine park planners in Perth are out of touch with the south coast community.”

ELECTIONS:

Over the next 18 months, there will be elections in:

 NT

The 24th of August 24

Issues to be raised:

  • Removal of Gill Nets in NT
  • Recreational angler access to Indigenous held lands
  • Golden Snapper,
  • Black Jewfish
  • Resource sharing – commercial Barramundi 350 – 400t Daly & Roper Rivers

QLD

The 26th of October 24

Issues to be raised:

  • Removal of Gill Netting on Mary River
  • Removal of Gill Nets in the Gulf of Carpentaria
  • Removal of Morton Bay Gill Nets
  • Spanish Mackerel boat limits
  • Snapper fishery

WA

The 8th of March 25

Issues to be raised:

FEDERAL

May 2025

Issues to be raised:

  • Offshore Windfarms
  • Importation of green prawns and white spot disease
  • Actions to address microplastics in the ocean.

It is critical for the future of the recreational fishing industry that you, as locals, contact your local members and raise local concerns. Please advise me of your concerns, and we will add it to the list.

From my experience, not many politicians and even less Ministers fish, so to assume they understand what is happening out there that impacts our trade is a little unrealistic.

Invite them to your facility so they can see and understand time is of the essence, as all future policies and budget considerations are made well ahead of the due date.

Tight Lines & Full Tills,
Cheers
Bob