Nearly 300 anglers have won a major environmental prize for their combined contribution of more than 1600 years of fishing data to Victorian scientists.
The 'Reel Scientists' have won the United Nations Association's Excellence in Marine and Coastal Management Award and were joint winners of the Victorian Coastal Council Awards for Excellence 2011 Community Action and Partnership Award.
They are an army of 296 recreational anglers working the length and breadth of Victoria to collect scientific information to ensure our fish populations are harvested sustainably.
Fisheries Victoria Executive Director Anthony Hurst said the 'Reel Scientist' diary programs were undertaken by anglers for anglers.
"The program tells us if fish numbers are increasing, decreasing or staying the same, and have provided the only time series of data describing fishery trends in many small scale recreational fisheries across Victoria, " Mr Hurst said.
"The volunteers are supplied with the two pieces of vital 'scientific' equipment they need to successfully collect information (a special diary and a fish ruler) and they record the time, date and size of every fish they catch.
"They demonstrate leadership to both the Victorian recreational fishing community and the broader Victorian community, every time they go fishing.
"They also provide an innovative, remarkably cost-effective and valuable service to our scientists and fisheries managers since they began operating 15 years ago. In that time they have made 246,000 fish measurements from 160 species in 350 waters."
The Reel Scientists program is Australia's first and longest running volunteer research angler program. It has been the benchmark against which the research angler diary programs have been established in other states.
"Management of Victorian fisheries is focused on securing a high quality natural resource base for the long term, as well as generating economic and social benefits in our communities," Mr Hurst said.
"The aim is to secure, share and grow our fisheries resources in an ecologically sustainable way now and for the future.
"The Reel Scientists Program is funded by revenue generated from the sale of recreational fishing licences."