Recognition of recreational fishing as an environmentally sustainable and healthy outdoor activity has been an ongoing challenge for the Australian recreational fishing community. Recent publicity from some conservation groups have prompted groups like Recfish Australia, RFANSW and PFIGA to explore accreditation programs and codes of practice that are robust, based on the best environmental guidelines and can withstand public scrutiny.
The National Code of Practice for Recreational and Sport Fishing and the National Environmental Accreditation of Tournament Fishing are two such examples.
The link between tourism and recreational fishing has often been suggested but never fully explored at a national level. The Global Eco Tourism Conference (9-11 November 2009), hosted by Ecotourism Australia represents a significant opportunity for the recreational fishing sector and especially the professional fishing guides and instructors to network with other tourism operators and to identify significant partnerships and opportunities.
Ecotourism Australia offers two levels of certification (eco certified tourism and ecoguide Australia Certification) for eco tourism operators and this conference would be a great opportunity to investigate the value of such an accreditation for fishing tour operators and guides.
The conference will also explore the themes of;
Sustainability and climate change,
Tourism and protection through partnership,
Tourism in protected areas.
One early outcome that has been discussed is the development of a Conference theme in the near future around the role that recreational fishing will play in Fishing Tourism. Engaging existing operators and investigating the forming of one or several national representative body(s) that could include all such operators that provide a service for a fee, which would encompass many varied groups.
i.e. Fishing Guides and Instructors, Fishing Lodge/Destination Owners and Operators, Charter Boat Owners, Operators or Skippers and maybe a number of Media Groups that specialize in recreational fishing and associated tourism type activities.
Melanie Young and Malcolm Poole attended the Ecotourism Australia Conference, held from 9 to 11 November 2009, in order to satisfy objectives relating to assessment of the Ecotourism Australia Accreditation and the potential benefits to the professional fishing sector. They aimed to identify linkages to current accreditation, self analysis schemes and Codes of Practice within the recreational fishing industry and opportunities for personal and professional development for members of the recreational fishing industry and networking opportunities within the ecotourism industry.
It was evident from the onset that there was little understanding from other attendees as to why the fishing industry of Australia was represented at this particular event. Some attendees expressed confusion and opposition to the suggestion that fishing of any description could have possible links to both or either, the tourism industry or the term ecotourism. A small percentage of attendees extended their support to the proactive attitude of the fishing industry by partaking in the event.
As a result of the strong opposition by a percentage of the group, the decision was made to investigate the reasoning behind the opposing movement whilst educating the attendees in the sustainability and conservation efforts current and historical by the fishing industry.