Published: 20 May 2024 Updated: 22 May 2024
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DATE 22 May 2024
FEEDBACK/STORY SUGGESTIONS Dempsey Ward Communication Coordinator +61 2 6122 2134

An investigation led by Tasmania's peak recreational fishing body, TARFish, explores how peak bodies successfully represent the views of recreational fishers to government. 

By Catherine Norwood

As recreational fishers seek greater input into fisheries decision-making, the role of the sector’s peak bodies becomes increasingly important.  

In Tasmania, TARFish, the peak organisation representing recreational fishing interests, is undergoing a rejuvenation process aimed at better advocating for its constituents and securing its enduring viability.  

TARFish CEO Jane Gallichan says an informal review in 2020-21 identified that the organisation needed to make changes if it wanted to more effectively serve and represent the state’s recreational fishers and remain financially viable. 

This has led TARFish to examine three other peak bodies as part of an FRDC-funded project (2021-081), exploring what made those organisations successful as peak bodies.  

As project leader, Jane investigated Recfishwest (Western Australia), VRFish (Victoria) and the Amateur Fishermen's Association of the Northern Territory (AFANT). 

Towards co-management

Jane embarked on a journey to investigate their different organisational models, and how responsibilities for fisheries management are delegated between government, fishers and other stakeholders, and where these organisations are placed along the path towards co-management of fisheries. 

Co-management is often seen as the ideal outcome for community stakeholders where responsibilities for managing a fishery are shared. Jane found Recfishwest was the most advanced towards co-management of fisheries.  

The path to co-management of recreational fisheries for the sector's peak bodies.

For Recfishwest, the ability to advocate against government decisions, is enshrined in its service level agreement with the state government. Ministerial decisions related to recreational fishing are informed by two bodies, the Department of Fisheries, and Recfish west as the peak body.  

In comparison, VRFish is regarded as an advocacy organisation within a broader “ecosystem” of representative organisations, despite being recognised as a peak body. Jane says in Victoria, the state government holds more of the decision-making control and consults with VRFish on relevant issues. 

In terms of transitioning along the path towards co-management, Jane found that a necessary pre-condition was that both the government and the recreational fishing sector, via the peak body, supported change. A catalyst was then required to drive that transition – a new government, a change in legislation, a change in the peak body’s organisation or even a crisis in management.  

Some of these transitional forces are already at play in Tasmania, with TARFish keen to revitalise itself at the same time as Ministerial changes in the fisheries portfolio are underway. 

Jane says the project highlights the importance of good governance within the peak body, to build trust and ensure there are sufficient resources, including funding and capacity, for making changes.  

She found diversity at the board level is an essential element. “A peak body can facilitate recreational fishers participating in government decisions, and it’s also important that fishers see themselves in the peak body,” she says.  

Recommendations for TARFish to come out of the project include revitalising its membership, expanding the programs and services it delivers, improving its relationship with government and its advocacy for fishers, as well as raising the profile of the organisation. It also plans to broaden its funding base. 

Building connections 

Jane says one of the most valuable parts of the project for her personally, is the connections and networks she’s built with other people in the sector.  

“As someone who is relatively new to the sector, doing this report meant I was able to develop a network of peers. A big takeaway for me is the value of setting up these structured discussions with everyone in the room to exchange knowledge and build connections.”  

FRDC Project Manager Chris Izzo says that this project was a great opportunity to reassess fishery peak body models and make improvements to these models.  

"It's really important that we have well-functioning peak bodies to provide leadership for the fishing sector,” Chris says.  

“It is quite a diverse community of people and, while it cannot always capture everyone's needs, it can at least provide a central point that can engage with the fishing sector and understand what their needs are while working with them." 

TARFish has already begun to implement some of the recommendations drawn from the project. This project report will also provide guidance for other Australian jurisdictions wanting to create recreational fishing peak bodies.  

Related FRDC Project 

2021-081: An investigation of recreational fishing peak bodies in Western Australia, Victoria and Northern Territory to identify insights into models of success