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Australia recreational fishing Code of Practice

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Adam Smith
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No universally accepted code of practice or conduct exists for the practice and management of recreational fisheries (Cowx and Arlinghaus 2008). In Australia, a national code of practice for recreational and sport fishing was identified as a need in the 1994 National Recreational Fishing Policy. In 1995, state government, recreational fishers and peak bodies developed the first National Code of Practice. The code was refined and updated in 2008 and 2010. Other national recreational fishing organizations in Australia (Game Fishing Association Australia, Australian National Sportsfishing Association, Australian Underwater Federation) have Codes of Practice, Conduct or Ethics for their activities and behaviours. There are many benefits of having a national COP for fishing in Australia. These include: • greater transparency of recreational fishing and its governing bodies; • greater stakeholder confidence. The general public are more likely to support activities conducted responsibly and can improve public perceptions regarding fishing; • is pro-active, having taken the initiative to develop and adopt environmentally sustainable fishing techniques to maintain healthy marine ecosystems; • a competitive marketing advantage; • it is more flexible than government legislation and can be amended more efficiently to keep abreast of changes in stakeholder needs; • it is less intrusive than government regulation; • participants have a greater sense of ownership of the code leading to a stronger commitment to comply with the Act and adopt acceptable standards; • the code acts as a quality control within the sector. The document A National Code of Practice for recreational and sport fishing (Recfish Australia 2010) is held in high regard internationally (Impson 2013) however, despite this and the potential benefits, the extent of awareness and use of the Code by Australia’s 3.5 million recreational fishers is not known. We have not been able to obtain quantitative data (waiting on web summary from Recfish) and estimate that it may be known and used by between 1000 and 10,000 fishers, scientists and managers between 2010 and 2015. Therefore, although it is accepted that having a COP in place is a positive step, it is difficult to assess whether it is effective in achieving its goals. In this report, we undertake a desktop review of the existing National Recreational Fishing Code of Practice (NRFCOP) to assess: • Its currency and relevance to recreational fishing in Australia, • Any new information or science that could enhance the NRFCOP, and • Awareness and use of the COP by recreational fishers in Australia. Based on these assessments the review makes recommendations where relevant about how to improve the NRFCOP in terms of: • Its relevance to recreational fishing in Australia, • Its ability to evolve as new information becomes available, • Awareness of the COP by recreational fishers and uptake of it, and • Any other issues that are relevant to improving the COP