NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries has identified the need to actively engage NSW recreational fishers in the Murray Darling Basin on how environmental flows may improve outcomes for native fish. A survey titled 'River Flows for our Fish' was used to assess the knowledge and capacity of fishers to participate in, and contribute to, discussions about environmental water delivery for fish. The survey identified where people fish within the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) and gauged their level of understanding of the benefits to fish from planned water releases in these areas, and how that water affects their fishery. It also identified widespread concern among fishers regarding potential impacts of environmental water on increasing carp populations and poor water quality.
The survey enabled the identification of the communication needs of fishers to better understand environmental flows and their potential benefits to the environment, the community and fishing. The recommendations derived from the survey data aim to improve communications between DPI Fisheries staff and fishers when engaging about environmental flows. The results will also assist in developing a broader community engagement strategy, one that provides a clear path on how to develop messages and methods that will listen to fishers’ concerns, respond in a timely fashion and effectively engage recreational fishers in working together to deliver outcomes for fish from environmental water.
The clear message from the survey and associated focus group was that recreational fishers are interested in environmental water and understand that it has the potential to deliver better outcomes for fish. Importantly there was a clear desire by recreational fishers to be more involved in the decision-making process for water events that may impact “my river” and a willingness to share information with others to improve fish outcomes. To achieve this, feedback mechanisms either at face-to-face events or via prompt email or web based live-chat sessions would enable information to be exchanged and concerns aired and addressed.
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