This two day conference was held for recreational fishers, landholders and interested community members, to learn, collaborate and take action. It included engaging presentations and informative panel discussions with a focus on taking action in your backyard to restore and revitalise fish habitat.

Hosts: Michael Guest and Jonathon Bleakley from the Reel Action Fishing Podcast



Jo Starling

Womens Recreational Fishing League
Nurture & Nature — The power of your feminine side in the quest to improve habitat

Psychologists like to ponder the concept of “Nurture Versus Nature”, wondering whether we were born or forged to be what we are today. In this talk, Jo Starling encourages us to seize upon the recognition that “nurture” has such metamorphic power. Does the emergence of a national women’s rec’ fishing movement provide opportunities to stimulate the nurturing instincts and ethics of this growing group of thought leaders?

Associate Prof Troy Gaston

Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle
Saltmarsh superpower : unpacking rec fishos’ data

Estuaries are a key coastal ecosystem providing social, economic and environmental benefits to the community. However, habitat loss can adversely affect ecosystem services such as fisheries production, which rely on food webs supported by primary producers such as seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh. Troy talks to the value of establishing the relative importance of different areas or habitats within an estuary, and how it is fundamental to effectively target management measures to achieve the best fisheries outcomes. Using stable isotope ecology we are able to determine the relative nutritional contribution of habitats to the diet of key species.

Dr Aria Lee

Sydney Institute of Marine Science
Living Seawalls: enhancing fish communities on seawalls and wharves

Living Seawalls are reviving marine life along urbanized coastlines by rehabilitating habitats for fish and their prey. Topographically complex habitat panels, mimicking the 3D structure of natural habitat features, are retrofitted to the otherwise smooth surfaces of built structures such as seawalls. Our monitoring and evaluation program has demonstrated benefits of this approach to not only invertebrates and seaweeds, but also to fishes that use the panels for feeding and shelter.  The approach is now being adapted to other structures such as wharf pilings.
Presented By: Lee, A., Bagala, S., Vozzo, M., Dafforn, K., Mayer-Pinto, M. & Bishop, M

Cassie Price

Director of Habitat Programs – OzFish Unlimited
Fires, floods, and emergency response

In the face of changing climate, our fish are facing more frequent and longer periods in crisis. Both freshwater and saltwater fish alike are being impacted by severe weather events. In the past two years in eastern Australia our fish have faced drought, fire and flood after flood. Record-breaking weather events. And they perished in their millions. While collectively we continue to strive to reduce our human climate impact, OzFishers are going to great lengths to ensure our iconic (and not so iconic) fish species are not entirely lost as a result of this barrage of changing weather.

Alacia Cockbain & Dave Faircloth

Protectors of the Eastern Goodoo
Fish disaster and recovery – our experience on the frontline

The journey of an OzFish volunteer – our background with fishing, the 2019 bushfires at Nymboida and our efforts to restore habitat for the endangered freshwater cod.

Dr Nathan Miles

Narrandera Fisheries Centre
Monitoring freshwater recreational fisheries: integrating new technologies for adaptive fisheries management

Narrandera Fisheries Centre (NFC) is a world–class fisheries research and aquaculture facility located adjacent to the Murrumbidgee River in southern inland NSW. Opened in 1962, NFC can produce millions of fingerlings per year.  These fish, including Murray cod, trout cod, golden perch and silver perch – are stocked in NSW waterways to maintain and enhance populations of key native freshwater fish for recreational and conservation outcomes. Hear from Nathan on his work with recreational anglers to monitor populations of trout cod so as to inform future fish habitat restoration projects.

Robbie Porter

Shellfish Restoration Project Officer – OzFish Unlimited
How eating oysters in local bars started a revolution

Used shells are collected from seafood businesses and restaurants across Brisbane. These shells are needed to restore the reefs as research has shown that used shells encourage live oysters to return and re-establish themselves naturally. Every oyster shell that is recycled and placed back into a suitable reef restoration site will provide a home for up to 10 baby oysters. The recycling center sterilises the used shells from disease and pests for up to 4 months before placing them back in the Bay. Creating oyster reefs is a tricky business and requires collaboration between communities, businesses and volunteers. Just how did a group of rec fishos do it.

Luke Pearce

Habitat and Threatened Species Unit – NSW DPI Fisheries
Master of the Macca and the search for the perch

Luke will talk about how the Central Acclimatisation Society supported NSW DPI Fisheries in recovery actions for the endangered Macquarie Perch by identifying a refuge site, ceasing trout stocking, providing funding and assisting with annual monitoring. Partnerships such as this are essential in reaching for recovery of the beloved Macquarie Perch.

Dr Tom Rayner

NSW DPI Fisheries
Screens for streams

Millions of native fish are lost from our waterways every year. They’re sucked into pumps and diverted down channels. With them comes debris – leaves, sticks, dirt and algae – that chokes water filters and clogs sprinklers. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. New screens are available that keep native fish where they’re supposed to be – in waterways, not infrastructure. They keep clean water flowing to farmers and because they’re made in Australia to suit Australian conditions, they also keep money in regional communities. Tom Rayner is a Senior Fisheries Scientist who has been part of a team leading the development of screening irrigation pumps in Australia. They are driven by the desire to bring international best-practice fish screening practices to Australia for the benefit of farmers and fishers.

Dr Craig Boys

NSW DPI Fisheries
The ecological succession of an estuarine wetland following the staged opening of floodgates

The term “swamp” understates the value of this wetland, nestled unassumingly within one of the world’s busiest coal ports. Retired fishers talk about how its tidal creeks and saltmarsh were once a power-house nursery for fish and prawns, driving both estuarine and offshore fisheries. That was until the installation of floodgates back in the 1970’s drained it of its estuarine life-blood. The result was akin to a heart attack. The wetland truly did become a swamp – becoming iron-red, acidified, oxygen depleted and dominated by freshwater species like invasive Gambusia. However, in the late 90’s those floodgates were reopened. Like a coronary bypass, the blockages were cleared and blood flow restored to the heart of the estuary. Drawing on 19 years of data, Craig will tell the tale of Hexham Swamps remarkable recovery and discuss how more projects like this are needed if we are to improve estuarine and offshore fisheries.

Prof Adriana Vergés

Professor at the University of NSW
Engaging communities to restore underwater seagrass meadows

Seaweeds and seagrasses are the underwater trees and meadows that fuel entire ecosystems around the world. They absorb carbon dioxide and turn it into biomass, which produces dense and highly productive underwater forests that provide shelter, food and home for thousands of species. Despite their importance, seagrass meadows are declining, and these losses are happening out of sight and out of mind for too many of us.

‘Operation Posidonia’ combines science and community engagement to restore endangered seagrass populations right at your doorstep. Hear how this solutions-focused project has shown us the great power of combining science and community engagement to rewild our coastlines and illustrates how when we give nature a helping hand, its ability to help itself is truly remarkable.

Tim Marsden

Fisheries Biologist
From A to B and everywhere in between: fish passage

Tim Marsden is a fisheries biologist who specialises in the provision of fish passage at man-made barriers. As the principal for Australasian Fish Passage Services (AFPS) Tim collaborates with a team of like-minded professionals in the areas of barrier identification and prioritisation, fishway design and construction and fish community and fishway monitoring. Tim has been designing and implementing fisheries related projects throughout Australia and SE Asia for over 24 years. With his wealth of experience, Tim has developed an intimate knowledge of the fish communities of Australia. More recently, Tim has built up a detailed knowledge of the migratory behaviour of the fishes of the Mekong basin while implementing fish passage projects in Laos.

Al McGlashan

Author and TV Host
Why education is the key to a brighter recreational fishing future

If we don’t understand it, we can’t look after it. It’s that simple. If we, as recreational fishos, don’t know the issues our fish and habitats are facing, then we can’t act on it, spread the word and create solutions. That is why there needs to be a concerted effort amongst everyone in the fishing scene to educate. The result? We see more fishos partaking in citizen science efforts, more directed policy on the issues we have identified, and more people volunteering their time to organisations like OzFish. It all starts with education. Al will be addressing ways we can educate, some examples he has seen which has resulted in positive change, and will share some things he has learnt after spending 40+ years on the water.

Dr Matt Landos

Future Fisheries Veterinary Science
How land use can make or break fishery productivity

Land and water are in an intimate relationship. One affects the other. For fish, this is the most important relationship as it affects their most important habitat of all the water. Water quality is reflective of the landscape it runs off from, and this either supports a productive abundant aquatic food web, or it can severely degrade it. From the microscopic algae and zooplankton it begins. This presentation will explain how various land uses from urban streetscapes to agricultural settings can influence water quality and in so doing alter the productivity of fisheries. The challenges of various pollutants and some of the restorative actions will be discussed.

Dr Sonya Duus

Gunning Landcare Coordinator
Partnerships with purpose – Caring for Southern Pygmy Perch in the Gunning region

When you discover you have a tiny, endangered fish living in your local creek, you suddenly have the privilege and responsibility of looking after it! That’s what happened when Gunning District Landcare volunteers learned about isolated populations of Southern Pygmy Perch in the Gunning region. And ever since we have been working alongside passionate fish scientists to monitor, raise community awareness, and improve riparian habitat for the species. In 2022 we have entered a partnership with OzFish to expand the important work of caring for this special little fish.

Craig Copeland

OzFish Unlimited
What difference can WE make to our waterways

Craig has been leading the protection and restoration of fish habitat throughout Australia for over 30 years. He has led ground-breaking work in fish passage restoration, wetland rehabilitation, river resnagging as well as floodgate and acid sulphate soil management.

Craig has been responsible for the advancement of recreational fishers undertaking river health projects around Australia and will uncover just how it can be done and its impact on our ecosystems.


OCT 11 2022 | Newcastle to host major recreational fishing conference

Leading figures from fisheries research and the recreational fishing community will gather at the Newcastle Exhibition and Convention Centre (NEX) next month to share knowledge and ideas about the latest developments in fish habitat. The 2022 Fishers for Fish Habitat Forum will take place on 25 and 26 November and tickets for the free event are available now. The event is funded through the NSW Recreational Fishing Trusts and is presented by the Fish Habitat Network. The forum will feature a range of expert speakers and site visits to nearby locations that showcase what is being done to secure the future of fishing. OzFish, Australia’s recreational fishing charity, is an event

Find Out More

The forum is funded through the NSW Recreational Fishing Trusts and is presented by the Fish Habitat Network. And is supported by the NSW Government in partnership with OzFish.