The endorsement by government of a new recreational fishing lobby group has put wind in the sails of Fish Mainland.

Fish Mainland, established over the past two years by Randall Bess and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), aims to provide a unified voice for the marine recreational fishing community in the South Island and Stewart Island.

Randall Bess says they have received an unprecedented level of support, including from all nine South Island iwi and the commercial fishing sector.

Priorities under the COVID-19 emergency has meant the government cannot commit funding to Fish Mainland at this time but Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash has written to say he supports the group’s advocacy of recreational fishing.

Jim Crossland who is chairman of Fish Mainland says the willingness and ability of the group to work constructively with government was key to the level of support they have received.

He says they are grateful that TNC’s expertise which will contribute to building Fish Mainland’s fundraising ability. He says the working group has already begun to work with their professional fundraisers to pursue opportunities that will allow them to become operational soon and build capability.

Building membership is key to their success and while membership remains free, they are seeking donations from fishers who are happy to help and want a voice in management discussions for important recreational fisheries. Fish Mainland members will have the right to nominate and elect five regional directors, and iwi will appoint two other directors.

The collaborative nature of Fish Mainland is something that the commercial fishing industry welcomes. For too long, a fractious relationship between recreational and commercial fishers has been the norm.

This need not be. A shared fishery is just that and respect for all users is essential.

A professional recreational lobby group with a solid business plan and good, transparent governance will be welcomed in the boardrooms of commercial fishing companies and in the offices of government ministers.

It is an opportunity for the recreational sector to have a seat at the table and while Fish Mainland is South Island-based, we encourage recreational fishers from all over New Zealand to support them.

After all, many of you will be commercial fishers as well.