Annual Fishcare Conference
We held our annual state conference this year on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of March at Phillip Island. Our conference is held yearly to celebrate the hard work and dedication that our volunteers and staff do to promote and educate the community around sustainable and responsible fishing practices, as well as offering a much-needed social catch up. This year’s conference was hosted by the Melbourne group and was the first time it was taken to Phillip Island since the Fishcare program started in 1995.
With the major formalities out of the way on day one that included our quarterly state committee meeting, day two, Saturday the 4th was set to be the be highlight of the conference. We had incredible presentations from the local Fisheries officers. They discussed local enforcement issues, their work under Better Boating Victoria and the changing fisheries including the new and upcoming Tuna run that has been developing over the last 5 years. Rebecca McIntosh from the Phillip Island Nature Park followed up with a presentation on the local seal population and how by looking at the seals, their numbers and diet we can see trends happening in the fish populations. Lastly, Ben Cleveland from Oz Fish Unlimited gave a wonderful presentation on the work they are doing in Australia. Locally, their most notable work has been their restoration of the shellfish reef from one of our local fishing spots, St Helens Park in Corio Bay. It was inspiring to see an organisation empowering angler’s to help repair ecosystems that will have a direct impact on the fishing that they do.
To conclude the day we embarked on one of the Wildlife Cruises tours of Seal Rocks. We were lucky enough to have Ben Cleveland and Rebecca McIntosh join us to talk about their local projects in situ. The weather was incredible inside of Western Port bay but once we made it to Seal Rocks, the onshore winds became apparent but nothing overwhelming. We cruised between the Nobbies and Seal Rocks and got to see the spectacular sights of the huge seal colonies. After a short time of observing the seals and learning more about how they interact with the local fishes and aquatic environments we turned around. It was an incredible trip and gave an beautiful perspective of Phillip Island and its stunning landscape.
On the final day, we spent the morning discussing the issues that faced our organisations, the positive things that we are doing and how we can improve on the program. The largest issue we face and as are many other similar organisations are facing is volunteer recruitment. With all of this in mind. Notes were taken and plans made for the next year ahead of us. This was a wonderful conference filled with many smiles, laughs, knowledge and experiences. We can’t wait for what the 2024 conference will bring.