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Response from PIRSA - Fishing Licenses


On May 14th, 1999, I wrote an article Recreational Fishing Licenses which discussed the potential introduction of fishing licenses into Sth Australia. Consequently, I received and email from Danny Simpson, Manager Recreational Fishery, PIRSA (Primary Industries & Resources of SA) discussing the concerns and issues I had raised regarding the above.

Danny brought to my attention, that the release of information in the Sunday Mail article dated 4th April 1999, was premature, could, and was misconstrued by the general public, and that a negative reaction would follow without supposedly being aware of the full facts. As there are always two sides to every story, I decided to put forward Danny Simpson's point across for your perusal. Below is an article reproduced verbatim from the Southern Fisheries magazine, Volume 7 Number 3 Winter 1999. It has also be reproduced with permission Recreational Fishery PIRSA.

Response from PIRSA

A major review of the recreational fishing industry in Sth Australia is addressing a wide range of issues including improving fish stocks, research needs, infrastructure development and resource planning.

Danny Simpson, Manager of Recreational Fisheries for PIRSA and Aquaculture, said the review was aimed at "improving the quality of recreational fishing". In this article, Danny looks at the issues relating to recreational fishing licenses.

Over the past years, two events have created a lasting impact on the way recreational fishing is managed. The first of these occurred in New South Wales, where an Inland Recreational Angling Licence was re-introduced after many years in abeyance. The second, and perhaps the most significant, was the announcement of the introduction of a saltwater recreational angling licence in Victoria, the first of its kind in Australia. Observing the events surrounding the introduction of both licences provides an interesting insight into the values and attitudes of recreational anglers in Australia. It also clearly demonstrates the scepticism this group holds towards government.

The introduction of an inland licence in NSW was nothing new. For many years, a license was required to fish the inland waters of NSW before it was abolished in the 1980s. Victoria, Tasmania have each maintained inland angling licences for many years. However, what is unique about the inland angling license in NSW is that it was re-introduced through the weight of public demand. Anglers in those States with inland fishing licences have derived significant benefit from their licence fees. Positive programs have included:

  • stocking of freshwater impoundments with native fish and trout
  • the rehabilitation of degraded fish habitats
  • vital research into the biology and habits of freshwater fish species

These initiatives have been funded through inland recreational angling license fees. The establishment of large impoundment fisheries in the Eastern States, particularly in NSW and Queensland, where man-made lakes and reservoirs are stocked with a range of native fish, is an exciting development in the world of recreational fishing.

The public demand for increase stocking of many other impoundments, and its willingness to pay for such activities, was a clear demonstration to the NSW Government that the community would accept the re-introduction of an inland angling license. This was only on the proviso that all monies generated through the license were used exclusively for the development and management of recreational fishing in NSW. The financial benefits to recreational fishers derived from the license (now in the vicinity of $2.5 million) continue to accrue.

NSW Fisheries has recently appointed a number of additional officers to its Fisheries Compliance Unit. It has also announced the end of commercial fishing in the inland waters of NSW.

The Victorian situation, while apparently similar in origin, appears more prescriptive in its intent. For many years there has been a great deal of conflict between commercial fishers and recreational anglers in the bay and inlet fisheries of Victoria. The competition for fish in these areas has steadily increased as more people take up fishing. The result is that fish stocks have been placed under enormous pressure and many species are either fully or over-exploited.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, Fisheries Victoria undertook a survey of recreational fishers to determine attitudes towards a community~funded scheme that would effectively reduce the number of commercial fishers in the bays and inlets. More than 60 per cent of respondents supported such a scheme by endorsing the introduction of a Saltwater Recreational Fishing Licence. Recently, the Victorian Government said that $7 million dollars would be made available for a voluntary buy-out of commercial fishers from bays and inlets. The money would be progressively repaid by the community through the introduction of a Saltwater Recreational Fishing Licence.

It is expected that significant funds will be generated by the introduction of a Saltwater License covering Victoria's 880,000 recreational anglers, and that many other activities, such as increased compliance and research will result. However, not all anglers are in favour of the NSW and Victorian license schemes. The many seemingly positive announcements regarding the benefits of these "user-pays" schemes have been accompanied by strong objection from many recreational fishers, particularly in Victoria.

Some opponents of both the NSW and Victorian systems consider the licensing or recreational activity as an imposition on the basic freedom. The cost is not significant, however, it is this area that generates the most opposition.

The anti-license lobby is mindful of the potential impact that a recreational fishing license may have on fishing-related business. It is argued that the imposition of a further financial burden on the anglers will effectively discourage participation in fishing, thus reducing associated economic activity, particularly in regional economies.

Recreational fishing is big business. In Sth Australia alone, recreational anglers spend $350 million a year. Nationally, this figure climbs to about $5 billion and does not include the substantial investments in boat and tackle. A survey of visitors to a Sth Australian west coast caravan park revealed 88% of all occupants were there for the salmon fishing that occurred in the area. It is this type of activity that opponents of recreational licenses claim will diminish. They say if recreational fishing licenses are introduced, the cost will simply be too high.

Administration of licensing systems, such as those adopted in both Victoria and NSW, is traditionally high, particularly when one considers the sheer number of people involved.

Perhaps justifiably, many fishers are fearful that the revenue generated from licences will be absorbed by administration costs, and that little money will actually be seen working within the recreational fishing industry. However, experiences in both Victoria and NSW tend to defy this theory. The Narrandera Native Fish Centre in the Riverina region of NSW expects to breed and release over two million native fish fingerlings in the coming year. in Burriniuck Darn alone, some 140,000 callop and 30,000 Murray cod fingerlings have been released this year.

A review of the South Australian recreational fishing industry has been operating for the past two years. This review has examined options for the management, development and regulation of recreational fishing in SA, and will shortly culminate with the production of a comprehensive strategic plan that will define the path for recreational fishing in this State. The intent of the strategic plan will be to develop and promote South Australia as a world class recreational fishing destination that has suitable levels of infrastructure and, more importantly, quality fishing available to all local residents and visitors.

The strategic plan will be developed by the. Recreational Fishing Industry Review Committee that comprises members from all over South Australia It will define a number of activities that require funding for the plan to be implemented. The outcomes will create many benefits for recreational fishers in this State and will include such things as restocking programs, targeted research, better compliance, quality infrastructure and resource allocation issues.

In the current economic climate, governments are severely constrained in their abilities to service all community demands, including recreational fishing development. More onus is being placed upon the community to define its priorities by clearly sending messages to the government on what it is willing to pay for and to what extent.

Many people will be aware that over the past three years a comprehensive review of South Australia's recreational fishing industry has been undertaken. The focus of the review is to gain a clear understanding of the biological impact of recreational fishing on fish stocks and the socioeconomic benefits generated, particularly in regional economies. No doubt many readers have been involved in the surveys and consultation. The data reflects the enormous significance of the recreational fishing industry. But it is a fact that the benefits derived from the industry have evolved with almost no strategic direction.

This lack of direction does not necessarily imply that the development of the industry has been unsuccessful. in fact, the high level of investment by service providers is a clear demonstration that the recreational fishing industry in South Australia is strong and vibrant. Recent surveys have shown that over 450,000 South Australians go fishing at least once each year. This number is staggering in itself. But when it is realised that, in pursuing recreational fishing, these people expend more than $350 million annually on a range of goods and services. They have invested about $ 1.1 billion in boats and fishing equipment.

Clearly, recreational fishing is big business But it can be much bigger.

Recreational Review Update

A major objective of the review of recreational fishing in South Australia is the development of a strategic direction that the industry may follow in the future.

The obvious goal of this strategy is to build upon the benefits that recreational fishing already provides to the State through the development of a range of initiatives that will attract more investment. In developing such initiatives, there is a fundamental philosophy - in fact, a legal requirement - that the health of South Australia's aquatic resources is maintained in a fit and healthy state.

In 1997, PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture released the Fisheries Management Series Discussion Paper No. 23, entitled The Management and Development of Recreational Fishing in South Australia. This document considered a number of items that were thought to require attention if recreational fishing was to develop and realise its potential. importantly, the document provided a real opportunity for recreational anglers in South Australia to present ideas to government on how they wanted their industry to progress. A number of thoughts and initiatives were suggested by the recreational fishing community.

These ideas provide the basis for the development of the strategic plan for the management and development of the recreational fishing industry in South Australia.

Earlier this year, the Recreational Review Committee was formed with the objective of developing the Strategic Plan. The committee comprises members from the South Australian Recreational Fishing Advisory Council (SARFAC), regional Recreational Fishing Committees, and major recreational fishing associations. At its initial meeting, the committee defined goals including the need to:

  • define, develop and optimise the economic and social benefits of recreational fishing in South Australia
  • protect and enhance the long term quality of recreational fishing
  • attract local, interstate and overseas interest and investment in South Australia through the development and promotion of a world-class recreational fishery
  • provide for the long term care and protection of the aquatic environments
  • understand and meet the current and future requirements of the recreational fishing industry in South Australia
  • enhance and promote public awareness and understanding of the principles of fisheries management
  • integrate the principles of ecologically sustainable development into the management of recreational fishing in our State.

The committee has since met on a number of occasions to progress the development of the plan. It has focused on a number of key areas considered fundamental to achieving the goals outlined above. Of particular significance, and in keeping with its responsibility as a key partner in the care of the resource, the committee has focused heavily on ensuring that the State's fish stocks and aquatic environments are maintained and where necessary enhanced. The strategic focus areas include:

  • sustainable fish stocks
  • healthy environments
  • education and public awareness
  • quality and diversity of fishing
  • community ownership
  • business development

There is a strong focus on further developing business opportunities in the recreational fishing industry, and in ensuring community ownership and responsibility for the fishery. More competitors for the recreational dollar will enter the marketplace. Unless the recreational fishing industry as a whole adopts a strategic approach to development, it will diminish in the face of this increasing competition.

The strategic plan for the management and development of the recreational fishing industry in South Australia allows the recreational fishing community and government to form an alliance in ensuring that this already significant industry realises its true potential.

The draft plan is expected to be released for public comment later this year.

Danny Simpson
Manager Recreational Fishery
PIRSA Fisheries and Aquaculture

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