We reflected on a successful but challenging 12 months at Recfishwest’s 2022 Annual General Meeting in protecting, promoting and creating better fishing experiences for the wider WA community.
From 1.13 million fish and marron being stocked, to ensuring great sportfishing catches through the State-wide FADs program, to developing a comprehensive WA fishing development plan with Government and new state-of-the-art designs for cherished fishing platforms – plenty was accomplished in the past year.
“It’s been a hectic year with a few big challenges, which has required us to be laser-focused on our purpose – great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever – and on our commitment to protect, promote and create sustainable, enjoyable and safe fishing. It is this that drives us on a daily basis,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland.
“The past year has seen the recfishing community united to fight for protecting fishing sustainability while maximizing the social and economic opportunities the fishery provides – that’s what’s important to us as fishers.”
Stepping up to the challenge
Throughout the rollercoaster of a year, Recfishwest Chairman Liam Surridge said the organisation’s core focus been ensuring the rights and recommendations of recreational fishers across WA are heard.
“We are in an era in which the increasing pressures of modern life underscores just how important the recreation and well-being that fishing provides is for hundreds of thousands of West Aussies,” said Liam.
“The record response we had to our survey on the future of the west coast demersal scalefish fishery reflected this with nearly 6,000 West Aussie fishers providing their input for the consultation process and a WA record of more than 18,000 signatures on the petition against the Government’s proposed nine-month demersal fishing ban.
“This shows just how much recreational fishers care about the future of the fish that underpins the recreational fishing experiences they deeply value.
“Recfishwest will continue to fly the flag for fishing and more than 700,000 recreational fishers we represent by taking our responsibility at the seat of the table with the utmost seriousness and highest level of commitment. We remain passionately committed to ensure we can continue to do what we love today and into the future.”
At the conclusion of the AGM, the three directors deemed to have been elected were incumbent directors Dean Thorburn, Simon McLernon and Ian Sampson, who will all hold office for a term of two years. Recfishwest congratulates all three directors and is looking forward to more productive years.
Long-serving Board member Jeff Cooper has stood down. Liam thanked Jeff on behalf of the Board and members for his hard work and significant contribution to Recfishwest and WA fishing.
Andrew gave a summary of the year’s activities and achievements in the face of issues and challenges faced.
In a WA first, Fisheries Minister Don Punch launched the Fishing Development Plan for Western Australia, creating a roadmap for delivering bold actions to enhance fishing.
““We rely on Government to work alongside us and the Minister has been on record in Parliament stating this plan will set the agenda of this Government in relation to recreational fishing,” said Andrew.
Recfishwest played a significant role in reining back original plans for the Buccaneer Archipelago marine parks following our close work with the Derby and Broome fishing communities and Traditional Owners. In October, 2021 following the community’s and Recfishwest’s submissions, a better outcome ensuring sustained fishing access to the regions was secured.
Based on this accomplishment, we are pleased to see the consultation approach has changed for the better for marine park plans currently underway for the south coast and for the extension of the Marmion marine park.
“Marine parks are one of the key focus areas is ensuring we maintain fishing access in the proposed south coast and Marmion marine parks,” said Andrew. “We’re up to our necks in the process.” It’s fair to say Government dropped the ball with the Buccaneer Marine Park planning process first released in 2020. There does appear to have been a slight resetting of the process since then – it’s far from perfect, but better than what it was.”
In a great outcome for WA anglers, the Fisheries Minister followed Recfishwest’s recommendation and agreed to increasing the herring bag limit from 12 to 20 from 1 October, 2022. The foundations of this decision came from thousands of respondents to our herring bag limit survey and the strong recovery of the species.
“We did a lot of work on the recovery of these fish – arguably WA’s most important recreational fish,” said Andrew. “We had 4,000 respondents to our herring bag limit survey and it’s good to see the community getting something back from for adhering to that bag limit of 12.”
A recfishing licence-funded project exploring shark deterrent technology to address the mounting shark issue in WA’s North delivered positive results.
Andrew described the Westport project planned in the heart of one of the metro’s most important fish habitats and safe and accessible fishing areas as “a $4 billion behemoth that will span the lifetime of several governments.”
Vital then that Recfishwest has had significant input into the science program in consultation with Mangles Bay and Cockburn Sound Power Boat clubs. This will be a key area of campaigning for Recfishwest in 2023 and beyond.
Creating better fishing opportunities
The past year saw Recfishwest support the stocking of more than 1.13 million fish and marron around Western Australia’s waterways
Recfishwest also provided significant input to state-of-the-art plans for a new Ammo Jetty in Cockburn Sound, ensuring provision for recfishers was at the heart of its design.
We and our partner organisation, Fishability, also saw the launch of the MV Fishability in Mandurah, a specially adapted boat to accommodate fishers in wheelchairs built by Bouvard Marine and funded with assistance of recreational fishing licence fees through RFIF.
Our three-year pilot FADs program concluded in 2022 and was an overwhelming success, providing new opportunities for thousands of anglers from Albany to Broome to target exciting pelagic species.
Recfishwest is currently awaiting future funding confirmation from the Government for this highly popular program to ensure FADs are deployed of our coastline throughout the upcoming summer months.
The past 12 months also saw us hold another terrific Troutfest at Drakesbrook Weir and the inaugural edition of the Pemberton Trout Festival at Big Brook Dam. Both events saw combined crowds of more than 700 people hand-release hundreds of big brown and rainbow trout.
Underwater snaps from Violeta J. Brosig proves Exmouth’s King Reef has flourished into a thriving marine oasis since its deployment less than four years ago and has helped anglers break line-class world fishing records. Recfishwest is targeting approvals and funding for new artificial reefs in Carnarvon, Albany, Broome, Onslow, Dampier and Kalbarri to add to the seven reefs currently flourishing in WA waters.
“We’re moving ahead in the space, said Andrew, “breaking new ground and we’re looking forward to getting some of these structures on the seafloor.”
Looking forward for the next 12 months
For the year ahead, Andrew said many more terrific projects were in the pipeline to help make WA fishing even better.
“A big thanks to our members, business supporters and project partners for supporting Recfishwest and the work we do to make fishing better for all West Aussies. Your backing means a lot and drives our small team forward every day. We have big plans for the next 12 months and will continue to pursue new opportunities and represent the views, rights and interests of recreational fishers.”
In 2022, Recfishwest welcomed our new and ongoing partners – all determined to stand with us for the common purpose of making fishing better across WA.
For an in-depth look into what has taken place over the past 12 months, be sure to read our 2021-22 Annual Report.