Recreational fishing in Tasmania-similar, but different

Innovative reccy fish poster – real life minimum legal size pictures of catch

If there is one thing more interesting to a fisherman than what you are catching, it’s what everyone else is catching. The same goes for how others go about their sport.

In Tasmania, as an example, recreational fishing is managed differently to New Zealand. With Hobart sitting at about the same latitude as Christchurch and being a landmass sticking out into the roaring 40’s, it is no surprise that we share many fish species and similar marine habitats. Walk the beaches or dive and you see familiar kelps and seaweeds like bullkelp and macrocystis; also shellfish like scallop, abalone (pāua) and oysters. And for finfish, they get snapper, hapuku, gurnard and trumpeter, mixed with species we don’t see, like flathead.

With a population of about 550,000, half of whom live in Hobart, but with a landmass over a quarter that of New Zealand, you can find a fishing spot for yourself real easy.

Tassie recreational fishing licence package

If you ever wanted a fishing holiday, you could do a lot worse than heading there for a bit of beach or rock fishing, diving or score a trip on a boat. Tassie is a real recreational fishers happy place.

But there are important differences, and I think aspects we could think about adopting here.

I went over a month ago for a bit of hiking and, out of curiosity, checked out what happens if you want to catch a feed of fish. The first difference is that in Tassie you need to get a fishing licence. Check out the following link.

You can get a licence online, or do what I did and head into the nearest Service Tasmania shop (like a council office) and buy one over the counter. The cost is A$59.50 for the basic licence, with an additional AUS $8.50 for high value fish species like rock lobster and abalone. The fishing year is 1 Nov—31 Oct, so don’t get get caught like I did and buy one on October 2nd! While aboriginal people are exempt from needing a fishing licence, they have to abide by the fishing rules, same as everyone else. And there are discounts for those on a benefit, under 16 and on the pension, so Crimpy would be fine.

For that you get to fish all year, anywhere in Tassie. They also supply measuring devices, information books and a printed licence. The government agency, Primary Industries and Water, puts a lot of work into encouraging and supporting recreational fishing. To the point where on the official website they have maps of where to try your luck for various species.

An official I spoke to told me that the main reasons for the licence were so they had a way of quantifying amateur catch levels, but also to help fund fishing projects for non commercials.

For the first point, the number of licences issued gives absolute count of participation, whereas in our country it is really a guesstimate. Turns out Tassie has one of the highest participation rates in the world—about 20% of the population fishes for a feed. Also, once a year a random selection of licence holders are contacted and asked to respond to a panel survey type questionnaire on fishing for the year. Though apparently for the heavily fished rock lobster they are moving to a reporting App. next year.

And the money from the licence fee goes straight back to enhancing the recreational experience.  It funds stuff like community education, research and better infrastructure like launching ramps and jetties.

When I was there, there were media stories of the construction of artificial reefs and permanent FADs being installed to improve fishing opportunities. It also funded an excellent 10 year Recreational Sea Fishing Strategy. Here that would be on the ratepayer or out of taxes.

An aspect I particularly liked was that management seemed more flexible and attuned to species characteristics. For example, they have two main species of abalone, green and blacklip, with each having two different size limits. I reckon this is a more sensible approach than our one size fits all, from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga.

Tasmania is a beautiful part of the world. Not really like New Zealand and yet sort of familiar. I’m certainly planning to go back and taking diving gear to check out whether greenlip abalone is really tastier than pāua, like the locals claim!

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