Join our cast of thousands and stand up for fishing in the challenges that lie ahead

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland takes a look back at a year of intensive activity by the peak recfishing sector body and how we can meet the challenges ahead for fishing and reap the opportunities.

“It’s been an intensive year for Recfishwest with several issues and developments requiring concerted advocacy efforts to achieve better outcomes for WA’s 700,000-plus strong fishing community.

The biggest issue impacting on a large proportion of the fishing community was of course the Government’s proposals to introduce a nine-month ban on west coast demersal fishing.

We shared the dismay of fishers at this proposal and were not surprised to see the huge backlash it prompted.

We strongly advised the Government that a ban of this length would have a devastating impact on our fishing way of life and all the benefits derived from time on the water shared with mums, dads, kids and mates and the opportunity to catch a quality bottom fish for dinner.

Furthermore, it was clear a hefty ban of this size would be a wrecking ball through many of the coastal family businesses reliant on fishing tourism in towns like Jurien Bay.

Recfishwest will continue to advocate for the best result for West Aussie fishers that accomplishes great sustainability for demersals while balancing enjoyable fishing experiences.

Advocating for a better way for demersals

On one thing we emphatically agreed with the Government, though, the sustainability of these treasured West Aussie fish must come first. Our sector has a strong-track record in putting the fish first – no one cares more about these fish than we do. This was evidenced by the strong appetite articulated by the near to 6,000 fishers who took our west coast demersal survey for a cross sector closure for dhufish coinciding with the fish’s peak spawning period.

The alternative package Recfishwest put forward to DPIRD with the input of our expert working group would have met sustainability targets, provided spawning protection for dhufish while keeping fishing families on the water for longer throughout the year.

Although disappointed by the final outcome, we were able to get the Government to roll back the closure of the fishery to six months and commit to a $10 million fishing support package, which included funding an extensive education program and to funding the Statewide FADs program for the next three years.

We welcomed these commitments – having a Government-backed Statewide FADs program following the successful pilot program we ran with clubs and the community funded by fishing licence money, is undoubtedly a good result for the medium to large boat fishers.

Critically, in the support package, $2.5 million of public money was earmarked for a Voluntary Fisheries Adjustment Scheme (VFAS), which will offer commercial operators fair and reasonable compensation to voluntarily exit the fishery.

This is a golden opportunity to set right a broken fisheries policy as it could potentially pave the way for a fairer and more equitable sharing of overall sustainable catch between recreational, charter and commercial fishing sectors. Subsequently, we are keenly awaiting the VFAS outcome at the time of writing this article.

Fishing provides such a huge range of mental, physical and social wellbeing benefits and these experiences need to be protected through adequate fishing access when it comes to marine parks.

Highlighting the value of fishing

The debate around managing these community-owned fish stocks, and other challenges such as the proposed new marine park on the south coast and the extension to Marmion Marine Park, has highlighted to us that decision-makers do not often understand or take into account the importance and value of fishing to the WA lifestyle and culture.

The objective of fisheries management is to optimise the social and economic benefits from our publicly-owned fish stocks – this is enshrined in law within the State’s Fisheries Act.

Recent experiences, however, suggest the social and economic value that fishing provides is not adequately considered when it comes to important fisheries management decisions.

That is why we have launched our Cast of Thousands Campaign to celebrate and elevate the recognition of the importance of fishing to the WA lifestyle and culture into the awareness of decision-makers, politicians, and the broader WA community.

Working with our creative partners Lateral Aspect, we developed three advertisements featuring three fishing personalities – Western Angler Editor Scott Coghlan, former pole-vaulting world champion, fishing presenter and Recfishwest Board member Emma George, and Katlyn Yeeda – aka ‘the Derby Jetty Queen.’

You’ve probably seen them already, but each ad being rolled out through multiple media platforms across the State highlights how fishing gives hundreds of thousands of West Australians the opportunity to relax, enjoy enhanced well-being and mental health, social interaction with family and friends, connection with nature and ultimately a lot of fun!

We’re also reaching a broader audience through the campaign explaining Recfishwest’s role in championing the rights and interests of 700,000 West Aussie recfishers, sustainability, fishing safety, research and the environment, as well as most importantly keeping the fun in fishing.

The overarching purpose of the campaign is a rallying cry to the grassroots of our hugely diverse community to unite under one banner to continue to protect what’s most important to all of us fishers.

Recfishwest was pleased to see the herring bag limit increase from 12 to 20 in October 2022 after their great stock recovery, to the benefit of West Aussie fishers such as Sonja Dobbe in Albany.

Great community outcomes through successful fisheries management

When decision-makers factor in the huge benefits fishing brings to our community, the results are dramatic. Not only beneficial to enhancing fishing experiences, but also to ensuring abundant and resilient fish stocks as well as healthy habitats and environment.

In this vein, it’s been really pleasing to see the strong recovery of herring – the people’s fish – resulting in the increase of the bag limit of 12 to 20 fish for these great accessible fish enjoyed by fishers of all ages and abilities.

More than 4,000 fishers provided Recfishwest their views through our bag limit survey showing how passionately people care about herring.

Crucially, being in a position to substantially increase the bag limit without any threat to the future abundance of herring stocks followed the Government’s commitment to prioritise herring for recreation and consumption purposes in line with ensuring the highest and best use of the fishery under the Fisheries Act.

Similarly, we were pleased with the results of the latest salmon stock assessment which showed salmon are bigger, more abundant and resistant to environmental change than they have been in decades.

The stock assessment showed that individual salmon are older, larger and around in much higher numbers now than they were 10 to 15 years ago because of a reduction in commercial fishing pressure.

The science confirmed what we have been seeing in recent seasons coming through in catches with 90-cm plus fish to near metre-long fish caught on a more regular basis.

Furthermore, such a healthy population of salmon results in a stock that is much more resilient to environmental change and future predictions of greater fluctuations in oceanographic conditions.

This is a management success story. We have abundant stocks that are continuing to flourish, full of large adult fish, well prepared for a changing climate and a salmon fishery that is enjoyed tens of thousands, creating more than $330 million of economic activity annually throughout the southern coastal regions of WA.

If that doesn’t show the massive value derived by our community from fish stocks managed to optimise social and economic benefits, then I don’t know what does!

Cast of Thousands ambassador and ‘Derby Jetty Queen’ Katlyn Yeeda along with hundreds of thousands more West Aussies love fishing off jetties and Recfishwest will fight for better land-based structures and fishing access to the benefit of recfishers. 

Investing in infrastructure to put the fun in fishing

Just as healthy fish stocks are critical to the quality of fishing we are able to enjoy in WA, so too is maintaining and enhancing fishing access – structures like jetties provide fishing platforms for coastal towns like Busselton and are hugely popular with community members and visitors alike.

You only need to look at the popularity of Kaytlyn Yeeda’s Derby jetty Queen’s Facebook page to see how these structures become a centre point for passionate fishing communities like Derby.

That is why will be working intensively over the next year to develop recommendations, in line with the Fishing Development Plan the Government committed to, in upgrading and expanding the State’s fishing infrastructure, including jetties and boat ramps.

We are also working as hard as ever in the creation of new enhanced habitat in the form of artificial reefs to support safe and accessible fishing as well as more productive fisheries. Currently we are progressing more than 10 new reef proposals for coastal communities including Albany, Kalbarri, Carnarvon, Karratha/Dampier, Port Hedland and Broome.

Join Recfishwest’s cast of thousands today

Our purpose as the peak sector body is to great fishing experiences for all in the WA community forever. We have an outstanding record of achievements in supporting the sustainability of fish species and their habitat and representing the rights and interests of West Australian fishers. Our ability to advocate on behalf of our members and WA fishing is amplified by the massive support we receive from passionate members, partners and business supporters to whom we are truly grateful.

However, as I write this article, there are many challenges we face now and in the months ahead.  So, if you’re not already a member, I’d strongly encourage you to join Recfishwest to help further strengthen our collective voice as a sector it’s free or $10 for premium membership – jump on our website for more details. If you are a member, I encourage you to continue to rally alongside us under the fishing banner, get your family and mates on board too and stand up for this way of life we all love.”

Click here to become a Recfishwest member and if you do so by before 15 December, you’ll go in the running for seven amazing fishing prizes!

Recfishwest 2022 Annual General Meeting – celebrating the year’s triumphs in the face of challenges for WA fishing

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. 

Read our 2021-22 Annual Report here

“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.” 

The Recfishwest Board, members, supporters and directors at our 2022 Annual General Meeting, held in Burswood.

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.” 

Board make-up

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.

Recfishwest Chairman Liam Surridge has done a fantastic job throughout his first year and is proud to represent the rights of recreational fishers across WA in the role.

Our leadership

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.  

The Fisheries Minister Don Punch followed Recfishwest’s recommendation and increased the herring bag limit for herring from 12 to 20. This fish species is one of the most important for recfishers across WA.

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.” 

King Reef in Exmouth has flourished into a healthy marine oasis since its deployment less than four years ago and has helped anglers break line-class world fishing records. Image: Violeta J. Brosig.

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

A big thanks to all our supporters who helped us achieve new heights over the past year, watch this space in 2023!