Welcome to Harbour Reflections - the first in a new series of local stories about what the Gladstone Harbour represents to different members of our community and how they use or interact with it.
As we cast our lines into the tranquil waters of Gladstone Harbour, we're not just fishing for the thrill of the catch - we're also part of a bigger picture. Behind the scenes, there are people like Bill Sawynok, owner and founder of InfoFish Australia, who are working tirelessly to keep our waters healthy and thriving.
You might know InfoFish for their impressive tagging program, which recently hit a milestone of one million tagged fish. To put that in perspective, it took 17,000 dedicated volunteers 198,600 days to net that impressive number. That's a lot of fish and a lot of dedication, folks! But what you might not know is that InfoFish's work doesn't stop there. They're also heavily involved in the Boyne Tannum Hook-Up competition, where they tag, weigh, measure and photo every fish caught at the live weigh-in at the event. That data is then fed directly into the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Annual Report Card, helping to keep our fish populations healthy and strong. But why is this work so important? According to Bill Sawynok, it's all about the bigger picture. "We're not just tagging fish for the fun of it," he says. "We're doing it to gather data that can help us better understand the health of our fish populations and the wider ecosystem. By tracking the movements and growth rates of various species, we can identify areas that need more protection, or make informed decisions about fisheries management needs." It's an impressive feat, but it's not one that could be achieved without the dedication of InfoFish's volunteers. "The great work of all those 17,000 fishers voluntarily contributing their time, fishing equipment and money to tag fish needs to be acknowledged, as without that, what has been achieved would not have been possible," says Bill. But it's not just about the volunteers - it's also about education. As part of their work, InfoFish is committed to educating anglers on the best ways to catch, handle, and release fish. "Stewardship is key," says Bill. "We want to ensure that people are fishing responsibly and sustainably, so that our waters can continue to thrive for generations to come." The Gladstone Health Harbour Annual Report Card is a crucial tool for understanding the health of our waters. Chair of the Independent Science Panel for the Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership, Professor John Rolf, explains, "The report card is designed to provide a snapshot of the health of Gladstone Harbour, including the fish populations. By using data from the tagging program and other sources, we can identify trends and make informed decisions about how to protect and improve the health of the harbour." It's inspiring to see so many people coming together to ensure that our waters are protected. As Bill says, "We all have a role to play in ensuring the health of our waters. Whether you're a recreational fisher, a scientist, or just someone who loves spending time on the water, we can all make a difference." So, the next time you're out fishing, take a moment to appreciate the bigger picture. Know that there are dedicated folks like Bill Sawynok and the team at InfoFish Australia who are working hard to ensure that our waters are healthy and thriving. And who knows, maybe you'll even catch a tagged fish - after all, the chances are one in a million!