TIGHT LINES: Recreational fishers could soon have to spill their guts on their catch habits.A NATIONAL survey could aim to determine the size of the recreational fishing take.
While recreational fishers have long pointed to the commercial sector for taking the lion’s share of stocks a draft Productivity Commission report suggests otherwise.
The Marine Fishing and Aquaculture report will aim to strike a balance between community benefit and industry profitability.
But the survey threatens to open a “tin of wriggling grubs”.
“You can talk to a fisher and he’ll have 10 snapper in his bag, but all he’ll say is, ‘oh, no I didn’t have a real good day’,” Port Stephens fishing columnist John“Stinker” Clarke.
“You’ll ask him whereabouts and he’ll just say, ‘up north’.”
The Productivity Commission’s best guess is that the number of recreational fishers nationally runs into the millions.
And it’s alleged their catching more fish duetothe rising sophistication and affordability of fish finding sonarthat has “increased recreationalfishers’ ability to fish further offshore and more intensively”.
Commissioner Melinda Cilento saidhistorical attitudes thatprefer one group over another will need to change if Australia is to sustain both recreational and commercial fishing into the future.
“Controls over commercial fishing in most fisheries are too prescriptive,” she said.
“Conversely, there is an attitude of almost benign neglect toward recreational fishing.
“This is despite there being millions of recreational fishers in Australia and that, with the help of technology such as relatively cheap locating sonars, recreational catch now rivals or exceeds commercial catch for some species.”
The commissionerrecommends that regular and systematic collection of evidence on recreational fishing is required every five years. And it’s proposed a national surveyin 2017-18 with the state and territories to meet the cost.
Mr Clarke disagrees.
“If they’re going to do a survey it needs to be done right; you can’t just ask a dozen fishers on one day what they’ve caught, it’s always changing,” hesaid.
“In NSW they need to start at the Tweed and work their way south past every estuary. It would take a year to do it right and it would cost a fortune.”
The draft report also notes the growth of aquaculture as a food source. In 2001 aquaculture produced 30 per cent of the national catch but now stands at 40 per cent.
That’s expected to grow, albeit modestly,with projects like the Port Stephens kingfish farm in the pipeline.
A final report to the Treasurer Scott Morrison is due in December.
A series of public hearings are scheduled nationally includingSydney onOctober 5.
For more information go towww.pc.gov.au.