Summing up the National Recreational Fishing Conference

Summing up the National Recreational Fishing Conference

Recreational fishing is an important part of the Australian culture and way of life, with an estimated 20 per cent of Aussies ‘wetting a line’ each year. It also provides huge support to the nation’s economy, with an estimated contribution of $2.56 billion each year.

Mark McCrindle talks about the demographics of Australian anglers [Photo: Jo Starling].

Over the last few decades, the demographic of recreational anglers have changed dramatically with more fishers taking up the sport for reasons other than catching a feed for dinner. Increasingly more Australians are enjoying the many other benefits recreational fishing offers. It is therefore no wonder the Australian Government is keen to see more Australians get outside and experience our beautiful waterways.

Alistair Drew from Warrnambool is one of the 55% of Australian fishers that regularly participate in ‘catch and release’ angling. Alistair takes a quick snap of a mulloway before releasing it back into the Hopkins River [Photo provided by Alistair Drew].

A couple of weeks ago, I escaped the wintery Victorian weather and travelled to the Gold Coast to attend the third Australian Recreational Fishing Conference. The event took place at the convention centre and attracted many keen anglers from all across Australia, together with members from key industry groups including state Fisheries Departments, VRFish, RecFish SA, OzFish, Fish Habitat Network, Australian Fisheries Management Authority, the Fisheries Research and Development Cooperation and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck.

The overarching theme of the conference was ‘Fishing for the Future’ and featured some fantastic presentations by experts from around the world on a diverse range of issues relating to recreational fishing. A highlight for many anglers, was a presentation by Paul Worsteling from the TV program ‘iFish’.

For Paul Wortseling from iFISH, fishing is all about getting our and enjoying time with family and friends [Photo: iFISH TV].

Some good news for any environmentally minded angler – The Australian Government have recently announced significant funding to encourage national leadership within the recreational fishing sector and help deliver initiatives that promote sustainable fishing practices and build a social licence within the angling community.

Leonora Black discussing social license and recreational fishing [Photo: FRDC].

At the conference there was a real focus on the Victorian Government’s vision to increase  participation in recreational fishing in the state from 700,000 to 1 million by 2020. This is in response to increasing recognition of the wider range of benefits recreational fishing offers to society as a whole. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Boosts to local economy (think Portland!).
  • Increases the percentage of Australians getting out and enjoying the great outdoors. Given the younger generation today spend an increasing amount of time indoors, fishing provides an effective tool for reconnecting  todays younger generation to the environment and in turn, inspiring future leaders in conservation.
  • Increases our overall health and wellbeing. Studies have shown recreational fishing can not only help combat the increasing obesity problem in Australia but also greatly benefit our mental health.
  • Increases community awareness on the importance of conserving our fish stocks, particularly through direct involvement in citizen science projects such as NGT’s mulloway research angler program (learn more by joining our facebook group at

In recognising these benefits and encouraging people to take up fishing for the above reasons, hopefully we will continue to see the demographic of anglers change for the better of the environment. Already, an estimated 55% of anglers regularly partake in ‘catch and release’ angling. Furthermore, surveys conducted by Fish Habitat Network show a growing number of anglers are recognising the benefits and importance of protecting, restoring and enhancing fish habitat. In fact, increasing number of anglers are getting involved in on-ground restoration work to restore their local waterways, not as a way of increasing fish stocks but more for their own self-satisfaction in knowing their ‘giving back’ to an activity they love to enjoy.

There is a growing recognition for sustainable fishing in Australia with an estimated 55% of recreational fishers regularly or usually partaking in catch and release angling [Photo: Jo Starling].

If you’re an angler and would like to get involved in on-ground restoration work around your local waterways, please contact Fish Habitat Network, OzFish or Lauren at Nature Glenelg Trust () and we can work together to make it happen. Please visit the following sites for more information:

Fish Habitat Network:;


Become a member of OzFish today!

Special mention to the Fisheries Research and Development Cooperation for providing these photos and helping fund the conference.

Lauren Brown