WESTERN Port Biosphere Reserve Foundation and OzFish Unlimited have formed a partnership to “build awareness of the reserve’s environmental significance and encourage behaviours that will protect its marine ecosystems for future generations”.
The partnership between the not for profit OzFish will extend the biosphere foundation’s reach beyond its resident communities and deliver important environmental information and advice to millions of boating enthusiasts and recreational fishers who annually visit the reserve, according to biosphere CEO Mel Barker.
She said the organisations shared similar values, “founded on a shared vision to ensure local communities and visitors are well informed and equipped to enjoy one of Australia’s most alluring regions while sustaining it for the future”.
OzFish promotes itself as an “organisation dedicated to helping the millions of Aussie recreational fishers take control of the health of their rivers, lakes and estuaries and shore up the future of the sport they love”.
It forms partnerships “to invest time and money into the protection and restoration of our waterways, counteracting decades of degradation”.
Barker said the human population within the biosphere reserve – including parts of the municipalities of Mornington Peninsula, Frankston, Bass Coast, Casey, Cardinia and French and Phillip islands – grew in multiples over holiday seasons, applying substantial pressure to fragile ecosystems.
“Western Port has become a mecca for recreational anglers, attracted by improved fishing experiences that have benefitted from recent changes to fisheries management in the Bay and will continue to improve with better habitat,” she said.
“Until now, the biosphere foundation has had limited communication with the recreational boating and fishing community and we’re keen to expand the awareness of its significance.
“These new partnerships will open up channels of communication to new audiences and be a great basis for more tangible collaborations and advocacy to improve the strategic planning and deliver the on-the-water projects that will enable us to meet our moral and legal obligations to protect internationally significant habitat like Western Port’s Ramsar wetlands.”
OzFish CEO and founder Craig Copeland has been advocating for fish habitat conservation and restoration for more than 30 years.
“Recreational fishing and boating are huge in Western Port and the new generation of fishers understand that looking after their waterway is how to secure the future quantity, quality and diversity of the fish caught in the bay,” he said.
“OzFish is growing its programs and engagement activities aimed at restoring the ecosystems that have established Western Port as one of Australia’s premier fishing destinations.
“Our partnership with the biosphere foundation will add to the depth and breadth of future work and campaigns. We appreciate that Western Port is an iconic location, not just for fishers, but has international UNESCO and Ramsar recognition as a unique place.”
Barker said that with the completion of its brand refresh program, the biosphere foundation would be working with OzFish and other partners to roll out communications to help as many people as possible understand the steps they can take to enjoy the reserve’s marine environment while minimising pressure or lasting impact on its ecosystems (“‘Strategic plan’ needed for Western Port” The News 12/9/23).