Fisheries Minister Gordon Hill has called on the Federal Government to allocate an estimated $20 million per year to the States to help manage recreational fishing.
Mr Hill was responding to the release yesterday of a draft discussion paper on recreational fishing in Australia.
He said the draft national recreational fishing policy was long overdue and a positive move for the future of Australia's fish stocks.
But he added that a significant injection of Commonwealth funds would also be welcome.
"Our recreational fish stocks are coming under increasing pressure, not just from fishing, but also from widespread environmental degradation," Mr Hill said.
"If this process is allowed to continue unchecked, we run the risk of losing a precious community resource.
"There is no doubt that the writing is on the wall - it would be totally irresponsible for any government to allow this to happen.
"The draft policy, released yesterday by Federal Primary Industries and Energy Minister Simon Crean, is aimed at securing the future for recreational fishing across the nation.
"A crucial part of this process is getting national agreement on what we need to achieve, and how we do it, in order to protect fish stocks and their habitats.
"However, I believe that a Federal contribution - from the revenue raised through the 20 per cent sales tax imposed on tackle, bait and other fishing equipment, as well as the significant amount in import duty on gear brought into Australia - would go a long way to help States manage recreational fishing," he said.
"The irony is that while the Federal Government collects these monies from fishers, it has never put any of it back into recreational fishing.
"The States do not have the power to raise funds by taxation or turnover. We cannot access any of the revenue collected as sales tax or tariffs on fishing equipment.
"I believe it is essential that the Federal Government thinks seriously about allocating funds to the States for this purpose, if it wants to avoid long-term funding and management problems - and WA should receive about $2.5 million of that," Mr Hill said.
"However, despite this, I want to urge recreational fishers in WA to study the proposals and forward their thoughts to the national steering committee.
"I would also ask them to bear in mind that, without adequate funding, the management needs of recreational fisheries will not be met, except in the present limited fashion.
"I am proud to say that the WA Government took a national lead in trying to address management problems through the two-year recreational fishing review completed last year.
"The review has already addressed many of the issues raised in the draft national document, including that of State-based fishing licences.
"What we need now is a firm national direction, strong Commonwealth involvement and an appropriate level of funding to complete the process," Mr Hill said.
A series of public meetings will be held in centres across the State during February to discuss the draft policy, and provide feedback direct to the national working group.
Questionnaires will also be circulated through fishing clubs and tackle shops.
Copies of the draft policy paper will be available in public libraries throughout the State over the course of the next week, for people wishing to make a submission.
Copies will also be distributed through fishing and diving clubs.