Recreational fishery assessment 2016 – small eastern estuaries

Executive summary

Coastal bays, inlets and river estuaries of eastern Victoria support important fish stocks that are highly popular recreational fishing species. The Victorian government recognises the value of recreational fishing to the state and is committed to sustainably managing and enhancing these fisheries.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority conducts periodic assessments of the status of key fish species and the fisheries they support. These assessments compile relevant data from recreational fishery monitoring programs, scientific surveys and other data such as age and length composition, to support a 'weight of evidence' approach to assessing stock or fishery status. The information delivered through the stock and fishery assessment process is used by fisheries managers to consider the need for review of current management arrangements.

This assessment analysed Angler Fishing Diary Program (AFDP) data in five estuaries (Mallacoota Inlet, Sydenham Inlet, Snowy River, Lake Tyers and Anderson Inlet), for three target species, black bream (Acanthopagrus butcheri), estuary perch (Macquaria colonorum) and dusky flathead (Platycephalus fuscus), spanning a time period of two decades (1997/98 – 2015/16).

For each fishery assessed, information from the analysis of diary angler catch data, fish length distribution data, along with angler knowledge, were synthesised to provide an overall evaluation and rating for a number of fish stock and fishery performance measures. A formal assessment workshop to present and discuss the data with stakeholders was conducted at Lake Tyers, Victoria on 30 November 2016 and was attended by recreational fishers; representatives of the recreational fishing sector; The Victorian Fisheries Authority managers and scientists; and a catchment management representative from the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority.

Based on the trends in the performance measures the status of the fish stocks in each estuary were assessed as either sustainable or uncertain, and in some cases there was insufficient data to assess stock status. Black bream was assessed as sustainable in Mallacoota Inlet, Lakes Tyers and the Snowy River. With the exception of Sydenham Inlet, stock abundance, as indicated by catch rates, was generally stable or increasing and there was a wide range of size classes present in all estuaries indicative of spawning success and recruitment. In Sydenham Inlet there was insufficient data to assess the status of the stock.

The status of dusky flathead varied depending on location. In Mallacoota Inlet dusky flathead was assessed as uncertain due to limited catch and size data, particularly in 2015/16, and in Sydenham Inlet there was insufficient data to assess the status of the stock. Dusky flathead in Lakes Tyers was assessed as sustainable with a wide range of size classes present and an increasing proportion of dusky flathead >55 cm.

There was insufficient data available to assess the status of estuary perch in Anderson Inlet with information on angler catch rates and size distribution limited to nine years from 2005/06 to 2013/14.

The collection of information needed to support management decisions that promote sustainable use of key recreational fisheries is not possible without the volunteer angler participation in the AFDP. Future work will focus on more active and regular engagement to increase and maintain participation in the AFDP, better use of technology to enable angler activities to be analysed online by program participants, and improving trend analysis methods to better integrate multiple lines of evidence into stock assessment. It will also be important to ensure good geographic distribution of the program to increase its efficacy. Complementary to this, participation in the angler knowledge survey will need to be maintained across the various inlets in order to be able to use the data over time for comparative purposes.

Further information

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