If you have a passion for fishing and want to help ensure there are going to be fish for the future, why not think about becoming a Fishcare volunteer? It’s fun, you’ll make some new mates and it’s also a great way to put back into recreational fishing.
The NSW DPI Fishcare program is one of the most successful volunteer programs in NSW and plays an important role in many of the department’s successful education programs. Fishcare volunteers play a key role in helping create better awareness among anglers and the wider community about fishing issues.
You can apply to become a Fishcare volunteer if you have a keen interest in fish, fishing and the conservation of our fish resources and their habitat. You also need to be at least 18 years old and have a Working with Children Check completed. Volunteers are expected to give approximately one day per month to assist the program. It is important to highlight that Fishcare volunteers have no enforcement powers, their role is purely educational.
Training to become a Fishcare volunteer involves an initial two-day training weekend undertaken at a nominated regional location in NSW. DPI and TAFE NSW will present and undertake workshops, involving lessons relating to conservation, research, compliance, fish species identification and legislation. During day two, you'll take part in a communication skills workshop based on approaching anglers and working with the public.
Volunteers then undertake a three-month mentoring period with a regional Education Officer and Fishcare leaders such as myself, who will skill you up on being involved in field activities and events within the program, such as fishing workshops, research projects and habitat restoration. At the completion of the mentoring period you will receive your yearly accreditation for the program, which is renewed every 12 months based on participation, knowledge and leadership.
There are currently 250 active Fishcare volunteers in NSW and they range in age from students to retirees, and come from a great range of backgrounds. I joined the program in 2007 and am currently the Team Leader for the Jervis Bay Region Fishcare Team, with now over 1000 hours of volunteer time with the program. I still get a kick out of being involved with the team’s work, particularly teaching kids how to fish. Several volunteers have gone on to working full time with the NSW DPI, particularly in Recreational Fisheries Management. The program has opened up some great opportunities for me, including being selected for the Future Leaders in Recreational Fishing Program and this year I will be participating in the National Seafood Industry Leadership Program.
Locally volunteers are involved in the usual Fishcare Program activities, but also take retirees and people with disabilities fishing. The Jervis Bay Region Team also plays an important role in the Illawarra and South Coast Police District’s Fishing for the Future Program. We are blessed with some amazing volunteers locally, such as my good mate and fishing buddy John Daley (JD). One of the best parts of about being a volunteer is meeting people like JD, striking up new friendships and talking all things fishing.
Experienced volunteers get to be involved in on-water advisory, assisting DPI Education Officers with distribution of advisory material, catch and release kits and information in relation to responsible fishing and food safety issues. To undertake on-water advisory work, all volunteers must pass additional training requirements, such as Elements of Shipboard Safety and Safe Work training.
Fishcare volunteers assist DPI staff, community groups and fishing club members to run fishing workshops. The Kids Fishing workshops are designed to teach responsible fishing practices to children, providing an enjoyable educational experience.
The program is funded from the Recreational Fishing Trust, with its major goal to teach the basics of fishing to a newcomer and to encourage them to continue in the sport. During the four-hour workshop the kids develop knowledge and understanding about fishing rules and regulations, fishing safely and responsibly, fish anatomy, habitat and fishing skills (baiting, rigging and casting).
At fairs and trade shows, volunteers assist DPI staff to provide information about sustainable fishing practices, rules and regulations and promote awareness of the Fishcare Volunteer Program. The popular recreational fishing Trust trailer, affectionately known as 'Bluey' is used to showcase DPI programs and materials.
If want to make a difference in your local recreational fishing community, come and join the Jervis Bay Region Fishcare Team. For more information about the program and how to become a volunteer, contact Stephen Thurstan, NS DPI Education Officer for the Southern Region on 0438 245 190.