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World Rec Fishing Conference A Success

The dust has now settled with the conclusion of the 10th World Recreational Fishing Conference (WRFC) hosted by the Victorian Fisheries Authority in Melbourne last week.

It is the most prominent and largest international recreational fisheries conference attracting fisheries experts, researchers, policymakers, industry and anglers from around the globe. They come together to share their science, their issues, their experiences, failures, successes and vision. And together they unite, to share problems and produce solutions for a better fishing future.

The three-day conference was attended by more than 350 guests and speakers, from over 21 countries. WRFCs has been hosted in Ireland, Canada, Norway, USA, Germany, Brazil, and the Netherlands. This year was Australia’s chance to shine once again after hosting it in Darwin in 2002.

The WRFC provided an international platform, where OzFish Unlimited could be a part of the action and be seen as an undeniable movement that is empowering recreational anglers and communities to give back and restore our once thriving fishery.

Some of the noteworthy presenters included the likes of Steve Moyer from Trout Unlimited, Sascha Clark Danylchuk from Keep Fish Wet and Aaron Adams and JoEllen Wilson from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, not to mention the English actor, singer-songwriter, angler and TV presenter Robson Green. It was truly world-class, and the Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) should be incredibly proud of what they put together.

Many of the keynotes spoke in some form or another about the importance of habitat restoration and stewardship. Additionally, the connections and partnerships with indigenous owners brought forward the message of intertwining first nations knowledge into future better fisheries management. However, the take home message was clear – improving water quality and prioritising habitat protection and restoration must be the primary foundations of fisheries management in the next century.

The importance of habitat restoration was echoed by the OzFish staff and volunteers in a sea of blue shirts arriving each day at the conference. Made up of scientistic, habitat experts, project managers, communications professionals and most importantly our volunteers.

The message was even more poignant through the personal stories told by Janine and Roy Field from Western Australia, Peter Kelly from Mildura and Steve Hawthorne from Moreton Bay who delivered heartfelt speeches on their motivations to give back and volunteer.

“In this country, we are so lucky that we have that privilege of prioritising the environment over survival. We must make the most of the opportunity that we have to restore balance in the environment. We need to recognise and right the wrongs of our past.

“Being involved in OzFish is one of the best decisions of my life. Not only do I get the satisfaction of knowing that I am doing something to help restore the environmental balance in my local waterway, I get to work with some amazingly talented people who have the same values and goals that I do,” said Steve Hawthorne.

After each presentation, the rooms were filled with energy and excitement. It was more than scientists sharing their research, but a diverse mix of people sharing a space for equal conversations and cross-pollination of ideas. It built opportunity to develop collaborative partnerships and solutions to some big challenges facing recreational fishing, not just in Australia, but across the world.

This was echoed by FRDC Managing Director Patrick Hone, highlighting what the future could and should be.

“Everyone must be willing and active to drive the change that is needed in the recreational fishing industry. A diversity of life also means a diversity of thought. This is how the recreational fishing community will improve habitat for the future,” said Patrick.

This was reflected by Steve Moyer in his opening keynote,

“Solutions are always found on common ground when everyone has a seat at the table.”

There are fewer words truer for the future of fishing.

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