This open letter has been sent to all Queensland Political Parties & Independent Members

Re: 2020 Queensland Election Policies:

I write to seek your Party’s responses and commitment on the key issues that affect the recreational fishing sector in Queensland.  In addition, AFTA is also offering opportunities for leadership in growing the recreational fishing over the next 4 years of government in Queensland through strong policies and financial commitment.

The Australian Fishing Trade Association (AFTA) is the peak Recreational Fishing Industry body representing the Manufacturing, Wholesale, Retail & Media businesses of the recreational fishing industry and therefore through face to face engagement, all RecFishers throughout Queensland.  The direct contact and feedback on a daily basis from RecFishers across Queensland is what shapes our industry and policies; this is why we put forward this questionnaire so we can help shape and better inform our members and Recfishers of your plan for Recreational Fishing for the next 4 years and beyond in Queensland.

AFTA’s industry perspectives are driven by sector growth, sustainability and profitability, as we are the Association that has actual financial “skin-in-the-game” employing thousands of Queenslanders.

It is estimated that in 2019 there were 942,700 Queenslanders engaging in recreational fishing, a substantial increase from 641,800 estimated in 2013.  The participation rate has increased in that time from 15.1% to 18.7%.
The 2016 Productivity Commission Report “Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture” recommended Queensland introduce licensing as a more accurate measure of participation.  Even though there is no licensing/compulsory registration scheme in Queensland to determine the exact numbers of Recfishers in Queensland, Queensland represents approximately 31% of all equipment sales in Australia.  AFTA acknowledges that this includes spending by interstate and international travel, but in determining fishing effort and effects on fish stocks a reliable base number needs to be established.

The recreational fishing sector is diverse and dynamic, as such we face a range of future challenges and opportunities. Over the next 4 years of government, it is essential that future policy development is guided by clear objectives, strategies, actions and inclusion and to be appropriately tailored and effective, the development plan must be informed by our community, industry, organisations, and tourism operators.

A strong recreational fishing sector relies on great fishing experiences and this is dependent on a range of policy settings and investment decisions. These include sound and participatory fisheries management, access to fishing grounds, infrastructure development and maintenance, environmental protection, water resource governance, and sufficient funding for community groups, projects and inclusive activities.

Strategic planning has evolved significantly in recent times, with new, creative and technological developments paving the way to enable greater participation, as well as to output innovative, time-bound and effective plans. Our community is ready for the challenge, we just need a little support to enable an innovative and inclusive process, benefiting the importance of our sector.

I assure you that AFTA is committed to working with governments at all levels and importantly the commercial sector to grow and develop our industry across not just Queensland, but all of Australia.

AFTA require your response to the following:

AFTA Trade Show
AFTA has historically held its Trade Show at the Gold Coast Convention Centre every July/August.  This year, due to COVID-19, the show had to be cancelled.  This impacted on AFTA as well as the GC tourism sector. The AFTA 2021 show (8-10 July) will be critical for not only our industry but also Gold Coast tourism.   AFTA is planning to incorporate a “Fishing Clinic” targeting children and parents on the Public Day on Saturday 10 July 2021.  AFTA will utilise our members corporate sponsorship of fishing media identities to engage with and educate not only children but their parents in fishing techniques, planning and responsible practices.

  1. AFTA seek a financial commitment from the Queensland Government of $25,000 funding towards this educational promotion.

Education – Recreational Fishing’s Future
AFTA currently run, in conjunction with the NSW Marine Teachers Association, a school-based curriculum teaching responsible, sustainable recreational fishing.  This program has worked through over 66 schools in NSW and is looking to expand and such is the measure of its outcomes, the NSW Government is now funding the 4th phase of the program.   AFTA has financially supported the program.
This initiative will also require the support of the Qld Dept of Education and the Marine Teachers Association of Qld to be implemented.

  1. AFTA seek a financial commitment of $100,000 from the Queensland Government towards this educational promotion to which AFTA will provide $50,000 in-kind and product support targeting an initial 50 schools.

Let’s Fish Queensland
AFTA is embarking on a state specific social media platform program to re-connect people through an influencer video program, “Let’s Fish Qld”.  This program builds off the extremely successful USA “Take Me Fishing” program and tailors it to a more Australian theme.  Not everything American works the same in Australia.  This campaign is now more time critical than at any time due to the financial and health impacts of COVID-19 social isolation.  The campaign has specifically identified outcomes, personal engagement, connection, addressing mental health issues and exercise.

  1. AFTA seek a financial commitment of $100k from the Queensland Government which will be matched by $50k AFTA co-contribution funding towards this promotion.

Fisheries Management:
The quality and sustainability of the whole of the fishing industry depend on effective and equitable fisheries management, allocation, planning and compliance. The Qld Harvest Strategies (pre-agreed decision-rules) are now in place.
AFTA recommends the establishment of a Management Advisory Committee (MACs) with members from the recreational, commercial, fishing tourism and Indigenous sectors tasked with overseeing the implementation and review of the Harvest Strategy.  Sound management processes must continue to inform stakeholders and include all sectors in fisheries resource governance structures and decision making.

Effective, inclusive management is key to the successful planning and implementation of policies across the fisheries sector.AFTA recommend a more inclusive and unbiased consultation process in the development of sound fisheries management policy. The strict rules over eligibility to attend and the lack of inclusion of economic consultation within these working groups e.g. the tackle industry has been of major concern.  These are the sectors with the actual “skin in the game”, they rely on a sustainable fishery to remain viable.  Further, as a part of the management process, it is essential that only valid & reviewed scientific data be considered by working groups and not data that has been assumed, estimated or simply presented for comment.   On that basis:

  1. Will your party commit to appointing a Fisheries Management Advisory Committee with members from the recreational, commercial, fishing tourism and Indigenous Traditional fishing sectors to oversee the planning and implementation of all fishery Management Frameworks and Harvest Strategies?
  2. Will your party commit to establishing a Ministerial Recreational Fishing Advisory Committee to report directly to the Minister on specific issues relating to the recreational fishing sector?
  3. Will you bring to parliament the legislation needed to finish the final stage implementation of the sustainable fisheries strategy and reforms in relation to the commercial inshore net, crab and trawl fisheries?

Marine Parks & Net Free Zones (NFZ’s):
Queensland is one of the most diverse recreational fishing habitats in the world, comprising of the Great Barrier Reef, pristine fresh and brackish water habitats and saltwater estuarine ecosystems readily accessible to all. The benefits of a strong recreational fishing policy go beyond the economic benefit, it also provides environmental benefits through sustainability and importantly a health benefit, in particular, mental health.

With a range of Net Free Zones now implemented there are still issues to be addressed.

  1. Does your party support Net Free Zones (NFZ’s)?
  2. Will your party commit to supporting the current NFZ’s without changing boundaries rules to accommodate increased commercial effort of any kind?
  3. Will your party commit to increasing the number of NFZ’s? If yes will the Moreton Bay Marine Park one of the destinations?
  4. Will your party commit to removing the allowed netting exemption from Yellow Zone in the Sandy Straights Marine Park?
  5. Will your party commit to a no lock-out, threat and risk-based approach to marine park management, including for any new Queensland marine parks?

Bag Limits & Closures:
Recreational Fishing and Recreational Fishing Competitions are very valuable to the fishing community, noting that any action to ban snapper in July and August compounded by a flathead ban in September as well as banning the “Flathead Classic”” works to destroy local participation and has a massive economic impact to both the Recreational Fishing & Tourism sectors and ultimately cost jobs and future entry/participation into our sport

  1. Will your party commit to halting the snapper/pearl perch fishing closure until there is credible science to back it up and commit to not banning or restricting fishing competitions such as the Flathead Classic.
  2. Will your party commit to addressing the inequity and mismanagement as witnessed in the closure of the Black Jewfish on the east coast simply because the commercial fishery had reached its quota? This is ludicrous and another restriction on angling and our trade, a recreational catch should never be aligned with commercial TAC that why we have bag limits.
  3. Will your party commit to a review the recent bag limit changes, in particular, the two-person bag limits as a boat limit and the 20 baitfish per person rule for certain species until there is credible science on which to make decisions?Queensland limits are amongst the strictest in Australia. AFTA is supportive of size limit increases as this benefits an increase in fish stocks.
  4. Will your party commit to change the current “no target” rule for both Snapper and Barramundi in the respective closed season and change it to a “no take” rule so that catch and release fishing can be practised to reduce the impact on RecFishers and fishing tourism?

Light Weight Crab Pots:
The government is implementing a ban on light weight crab pots, yet here is no information on what would be considered “light weight “ and even more concerning is that there has been no effort to consult the people who import and sell these items. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that cheap light weight traps lead to them being discarded, lost and then ending up ghost fishing as suggested. It is more probable that trap theft and trawlers cause more pots to be moved and lost.
If as a result of this policy traps become more expensive then it would be reasonable to expect an increase in theft as traps become less affordable. AFTA is concerned that this has more to do with removing and destroy traps without cause. The stated goal is to restrict the crabbing effort in the Moreton Bay Marine Park as further north they use heavier traps.

  1. Will your party commit to a halt on the ban on light weight crab pots until a full and inclusive study has been done?

Qld Recreational Fishing Grants Program
The Queensland Government’s Recreational Fishing Grants Program has provided crucial funds for community events and projects. Funded initiatives have included the Gone Fishing Day, kids fishing clinics as well as investment in community facilities and infrastructure, and fisher-led research and custodianship projects like fish tagging, fish habitat and capacity building. Dedicated fishing grants programs breathe life into the needs and priorities as identified by recreational fishing communities.

  1. What is your party’s plan for funding recreational facilities & infrastructure over the next 4 years?

Artificial Reefs and Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs)
There are a number of artificial reefs across Queensland. These include Moreton Bay artificial reef, The Great Sandy Marine Park artificial reefs as well as the Ex-HMAS Brisbane artificial reef and the Ex-HMAS Tobruk artificial reef in Great Sandy Marine Park.

The Artificial Reefs provide valuable fish habitat and together with the FAD’s, are designed to offer accessible, high quality, sustainable fishing experiences for reef fish and pelagic fish. It is essential that the deployed reefs are monitored and if deemed successful, plans should be made to expand the program to ensure that quality fishing experiences are accessible to more fishers, so that existing reefs are not overfished.

AFTA cannot accept that Wreck Reefs are designated “Dive Only” reefs and asks for a commitment for those reefs to be opened up to allow Recreational Fishing.

  1. What is your party’s commitment to allow “Wreck” reefs to be opened up to allow Recreational Fishing.
  2. What is your party’s commitment to expanding the current FAD location program that runs from south Frazer Island to the Qld Border and if so how many and what locations over what time frame?

Fishing License/Compulsory Registration:
As stated previously, Queensland’s recreational fishing participation in 2019 was estimated to be 943,000 in a survey conducted by SRC based on extrapolated data from just 8500 phone calls & 2100 logbooks, this is up from previous survey estimates of participation of  between 785,045 (Henry & Lyle 2003) and 642,000 (2013-14 DAC Qld 2015) .

The 2016 Productivity Commission Report “Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture” recommended Queensland introduce a form of licensing as a more accurate measure of participation.  A well-designed licensing (permit) system or compulsory registration (no cost to angler) with no exemptions is a key step towards better understanding and managing recreational fishing. Such a scheme would provide a more accurate measure of participation and a sampling frame for surveys to monitor catch, effort, gear used, expenditure, social impacts and the value derived from recreational fishing, which should factor into decisions on access, management of recreational fishing activity and services.    This would also benefit catch rate assessment under the Qld Harvest Strategy as it provides a better basis for monitoring effort and allocating access to fishery resources and the means for directly conveying and enforcing access conditions.  In addition, this would provide an up to date database to better target information and services (for example, ramps and educational resources) for recreational fishers.

Even though it is estimated that Recfishers in Queensland represents about 25% of the nation’s fishing population, Queensland represents approximately 31% of all equipment sales in Australia.  AFTA acknowledges that this includes spending by interstate and international travel, but in determining fishing effort and effects on fish stocks a reliable base number needs to be established

  1. Does your party plan to introduce a recreational fishing licence or compulsory registration?

AFTA acknowledges the Qld Government has a Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme (SIPS) covering access to all 63 impoundments.

  1. With the impacts of COVID-19, will your party commit to freezing the SIPS fee for the next 4 years, if not, why not?

Finally, on behalf of AFTA and Queensland’s recreational fishing community, I thank you for taking the time to consider AFTA’s position. On receipt of your specific responses and the broader policy statement on Recreational Fishing, we will undertake to distribute your responses in a non-partisan manner to our membership and therefore recreational fishers across the state.

AFTA have not and will not advocate whom to vote for but will advocate on the policies that are to the benefit or detriment of our industry.

With access to postal and pre-poll voting many Australians now vote early, we require responses by COB Friday, 16 October 2020 to inform voters of your policy before voting, otherwise “no response received” will be listed on our website and social media channels.

Yours sincerely

Michael Starkey                                                           The Hon. Bob Baldwin
President                                                                      Independent Chair
AFTA                                                                             AFTA