$15m Catch of the day in fisho grants

RECREATIONAL anglers on the Gold Coast are being lured to apply for Federal Government grants of up to $100,000 to improve their fishing experience.

The grants are part of $15 million in funding available nationally for community groups, associations, companies and individuals for local projects such as boat ramps, washdown facilities and volunteer marine rescue which was promised by the government before the last election.

Minister for Fisheries Senator Ian Macdonald last week visited Currumbin Creek with Member for McPherson Margaret May to call for applications for the first round of the three-year Recreational Fishing Community Grants Program.

But the money will not be used for dredging the silted-up Currumbin Creek bar to improve navigation for the hundreds of boaties using it ? a controversial issue and political football for many years Senator Macdonald told reporters that dredging the creek was mainly a State matter and he urged the Queensland Government to spend money from boat registration and fishing licence fees to be used for that purpose.

"Our program is to extend the recreational fishing experience and not for things which should be done by the State Government or local council on their own accord ... I prefer this for something extra," he said.

"This is to encourage Australians to reel in the big ones - the program is for anything that will increase the recreational fishing experience ... projects could involve improvements at boat ramps, funding for volunteer marine rescue associations, re-stocking and re-snagging rivers and waterways, facilities for washdown ? in fact virtually anything that makes a day on

the water more enjoyable."

The Minister said the funding was an "additional enticement for people to go fishing" and not for environmental projects but he urged applicants to consider ecologically-sustainable projects.

Senator Macdonald said Australia was a mecca for recreational fishing, which pumped millions of dollars into the economy and his government wanted to get more families "hooked on fishing".

"Fishing gives the greatest experience and the greatest enjoyment to the greatest number of people.

"The ideas for these grants can be as vast as the ocean itself and I'm sure fishermen will have lots of good ideas," he said.

The grant applications, he said, would be assessed by an independent panel and would close on October 14.

For application forms visit www.daff.gov.au/recfishinggrants or call (02) 6272 3848.

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