Recreational fishers are natural champions for Australian fish habitat. Taking leadership in this role is critical in the rehabilitation of the Australian recreational fishery.
Fish habitat throughout Australia is in trouble. Progressive degradation of fish habitat has occurred since European settlement and continues today. Recreational fishers stand to lose significantly through diminished fisheries productivity and access if this degradation continues. The degradation of the recreational fishery has significant implications socially and economically.
Degradation of fish habitat needs to be slowed and the big challenge is to rehabilitate what has been lost and this will bring benefits not only to recreational fishing but also to local environments and the broader community. However, these changes are not happening to the degree needed, nor will they happen, without the active support of the recreational fishing community.
This was recognised by Australia's recreational fishing community who called for the development of a national fish habitat rehabilitation plan as a priority output of the 2012 National Recreational Fishing Conference and in the Keep Australia Fishing Report (Salter, 2011).
In order for progress to be made, the current skills, knowledge, capability and collaboration among Australia's recreational fishing community regarding fish habitat and habitat rehabilitation must be escalated. That is the primary objective of this project which meets the Investment Priorities as identified in priority 2 for People Development – “Building Capacity within the recreational fishing community to improve fisheries productivity via delivery of fish habitat enhancement initiatives and associated R&D”.
The approach to this work needs to reflect the differences in where various recreational fishing communities are in terms of their knowledge and skills, and the different ways in which fishers get information and whose information they trust. This project takes an approach that is evidence-based and specific to the recreational fishing community in Australia.
From 2016 to 2018, recreational fishers across Australia focussed their attention on fish habitat as part of the project, Empowering recreational fishers as champions of healthy fish habitat.
Fish habitat throughout Australia is in trouble. Progressive degradation of fish habitat has occurred since European settlement and continues today. The degradation of the recreational fishery has significant implications socially and economically for Australia. Degradation of fish habitat needs to be slowed and the big challenge is to rehabilitate what has been lost. However, these changes are not happening to the degree needed; nor will they happen, without the active support of the recreational fishing community. In order for progress to be made, the skills, knowledge, capability and collaboration among Australia's recreational fishing community regarding fish habitat and habitat rehabilitation needed to be escalated.
The project was a massive effort on behalf of the recreational fishing community to do things that would both improve fish habitat and enhance fishers’ capacity to take on this work. This report documents these activities and the outcomes for fishers and for fish that have been achieved.
OzFish Unlimited coordinated the project on behalf of the Fish Habitat Network, a group of like-minded organisations from government and non-government sectors.
The project was funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), on behalf of the Australian Government. Additional financial support was provided by The Nature Conservancy and Recfishwest. Valuable in-kind contributions were provided by Amateur Fisherman’s Association of the Northern Territory, Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Healthy Land and Water (formerly SEQ catchments), NSW DPI Fisheries, VR Fish, Arthur Rylah Institute, Victorian Fisheries Authority, Recfish SA and Primary Industry and Regions SA. The contributions provided by these organisations were enhanced by the thousands of hours of work contributed by individual recreational fishers.
Through this shared effort a lot more recreational fishers were able to be engaged with a common message about the status of fish habitat and the role that they can play in its management.
A National Fish Habitat Strategy is an eﬀective and eﬃcient way to protect and improve our recreational ﬁsheries into the future.
All ﬁsh need habitat. The better the habitat, the more ﬁsh will survive and thrive. The more diverse the habitat, the more species will ﬂourish. Many things are aﬀecting our ﬁsh populations BUT the most important factor is the decline in quality and availability of habitat.