Regulatory and Policy Framework
Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 2009
Fishing activities in all Victorian waters are managed under the provisions of the Fisheries Act 1995 and the Fisheries Regulations 2009. The Fisheries Act provides the legislative framework for the regulation and management of Victorian fisheries and for the conservation of fisheries resources including their supporting aquatic habitats.
The Fisheries Regulations prescribe detailed management arrangements for individual commercial and recreational fisheries including licence requirements, restrictions on fishing equipment and methods, restrictions on fishing catch and or effort (e.g. bag limits, size limits, closed seasons and areas) and penalties for breaches of fishing controls.
Recreational fishing regulations are summarised in the Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide which is available at many fishing tackle outlets and at www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting.
Fisheries Victoria's strategic direction
Fisheries management in Victoria focuses on securing a long-term, high quality natural resource base and generating jobs and other socio-economic benefits in and for the State's communities. Fisheries Victoria undertakes its role in the context of increasing competition for water and access to fisheries resources and increasing pressures on fish habitats. Establishing clear directions is critical to Fisheries Victoria's ability to effectively manage the State's fishery resources by developing and implementing policies and projects and delivering a wide range of services.
Fisheries Victoria's vision of success is to develop and manage the State's fisheries resources to ensure fish now and for the future (Figure 2). This vision underpins the organisation's projects, policies and services and is achieved with the cooperation and support of the community, industry and other government agencies and within the established legislative and policy framework. In accordance with Commonwealth and State government policies, Fisheries Victoria is committed to managing fisheries in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (Fletcher et al. 2002).
Fisheries Victoria has developed or is developing a range of policies and processes to assist it in managing the States Fisheries Resources:
- Fisheries Victoria's Consultative Arrangements (Department of Primary Industries 2010g)
- Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes and the annual Vic Fish Stock (formerly CONS) consultation process (Department of Primary Industries 2008a; 2010e)
- Recreational Fishing Trust Account and the Recreational Fishing Grants Program (Department of Primary Industries 2009c; 2010d)
- Victorian Climate Change Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture 2008-2018 (Department of Primary Industries 2008f)
- Responding to the Impacts of Drought and its Consequences on Inland Recreational Fisheries (Department of Primary Industries 2008e)
- Inland Waters Recreational Fishing Classification: Building Better Fisheries in Victoria (Department of Primary Industries 2010c)
- Aboriginal Fishing Strategy (in preparation) (Department of Primary Industries 2010a)
- Victorian Murray Cod Fishery Management Arrangements (Department of Primary Industries 2008g)
- Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria and the Protocols for the Translocation of Fish in Victorian Inland Public Waters (Department of Primary Industries 2005; 2009b)
Noxious aquatic species
The Department of Sustainability and Environment has the primary responsibility for the management of aquatic pests in Victoria. The Department of Primary Industries performs a supporting role through the use of various fisheries management tools depending on the circumstance.
Carp is the dominant noxious aquatic species in many of Australia's inland waterways and can constitute ninety per cent of the fish biomass in some areas. Carp cause significant damage to aquatic habitats by suspending sediments during feeding which results in diminished water quality and changes to aquatic habitat. These changes can lead to local exclusions and extinctions of native freshwater fish populations and negative impacts on recreational fisheries (Department of Primary Industries 2007a; Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre 2007).
The Department of Primary Industries has invested approximately $150,000 per year for several years in carp research through joint projects established by the Commonwealth Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre (the IA CRC), Australia's largest integrated invasive animal research program. The Freshwater Program of the IA CRC is a multi-agency and cross-jurisdictional integrated research program that over its lifetime (to 2012) will invest more than nine million dollars in pest fish research.
The Freshwater Program is guided by a seven-year integrated carp management research plan to provide information and develop tools in the areas of detection and prevention, control options and techniques, target species information and education/community engagement. Over forty organisations including thirty-six Australian government agencies (e.g. the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; the Victorian Department of Primary Industries and Department of Sustainability and Environment; the South Australian Research and Development Institute; the New South Wales Department of Industry and Investment (Primary Industries); the Tasmania Inland Fisheries Service; the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation; the Murray-Darling Basin Authority) and other organisations and enterprises from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States participate in the program.
Projects funded through the IA CRC include: development of 'daughterless' carp technology; the use of koi herpes virus as a biological control agent; review and development of fish-specific biocides and delivery options; identification and isolation of natural environmental attractants; development of software to simulate the effectiveness of carp management strategies; integration of tagging to determine movement and migration of carp; and development of sensory attractants.
Recreational Fishing Grants Program
The Victorian Government, through the Recreational Fishing Licence Trust Account, disburses revenue derived from the sale of Recreational Fishing Licences to projects that will improve recreational fishing in Victoria. This program is administered by the Recreational Fishing Grants Working Group whose membership is comprised of recreational fishers and a VRFish nominee. The working group assesses and provides advice to the minister on applications for grants received under the Recreational Fishing Grants Program.
The Recreational Fishing Grants Program comprises three separate programs:
- A Small Grants Program that is continually open to fund small projects (up to $5,000)
- A Large Grants Program ($5,001 to $100,000)
- A Commissioning Program for large priority projects (generally in excess of $100,000).
The Recreational Fishing Grants Program funds: recreational fishing access and facilities; recreational fisheries' sustainability and habitat improvement; recreational fisheries-related education, information and training; and recreational fisheries research. Further information on the Recreational Fishing Grants Program is available at the Department of Primary Industries website or by calling the Customer Service Centre at 136 186.
Key agencies, legislation and policies
Department of Sustainability and Environment
The Department of Sustainability and Environment is Victoria's lead government agency responsible for sustainably managing water and land resources, climate change, bushfires, public land, forests, ecosystems and cultural heritage (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2009c).
The Department of Sustainability and Environment prepares action statements for species, communities or processes that are listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, the State's primary legislation for dealing with biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of native flora and fauna. Action statements identify what will be/has been done to conserve the species and to provide background information including habitat requirements, life history, threats and reasons for its decline.
Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act-listed species can only be taken or kept by recreational fishers if authorised by an Order of Governor in Council specifying the conditions under which they may be taken. These conditions are reflected in the Fisheries Regulations. The conservation and recreational fishing status in the Goulburn-Broken region of key recreational and other fish species is summarised in Table 1. More information on the Department of Sustainability and Environment is available at www.dse.vic.gov.au.
Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority
The key goal of sustainable land and water management in Victoria requires the complex integration of ecological, economic and social objectives (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2009b). Catchment Management Authorities, a major part of the framework for achieving sustainable management of Victoria's land and water resources, are established in each of the State's ten catchment regions.
The Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authoritymanages waterways, leads the development and implementation of strategies such as the Goulburn Broken Regional River Health Strategy, funds monitoring, researches and plans for recreational fishing and conservation species enhancement, educates the community, manages the Environmental Water Reserve and funds the implementation of action plans for native species (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2005b).
This includes overseeing the implementation of the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2003). More information on the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority is available at www.gbcma.vic.gov.au.
Goulburn-Murray Rural Water Corporation
In the Goulburn-Broken region, the Goulburn-Murray Rural Water Corporation (trading as Goulburn-Murray Water) manages major dams, weirs and irrigation and drainage systems including the Goulburn and Eildon weirs. Goulburn-Murray Water is charged with delivering sustainable water services that meet customer and stakeholder needs and support regional economic growth while balancing social, economic and environmental considerations. Water corporations also licence and regulate the extraction of water directly from rivers, lakes and groundwater supplies for consumptive uses such as irrigation and commercial use (Goulburn-Murray Water 2007b).
Goulburn-Murray Water is developing separate land and on-water management plans for each of its sixteen water storages. These plans will identify and protect important community, cultural heritage and environmental values in each of the storages, outline priority management issues and identify key actions needed for their protection. To date, management plans have been developed for the Lake Mulwala and Lake Hume storages in north-eastern Victoria and a draft management plan has been prepared for Lake Nillahcootie (Goulburn-Murray Water 2008; 2009; 2010). Goulburn-Murray water will continue to liaise with Fisheries Victoria in the development and implementation of land and on-water management plans to ensure that fisheries values are recognised and protected.
Recovery plans and action statements
The Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities may implement recovery plans for threatened fauna, flora and ecological communities listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Recovery plans set out the research and management actions necessary to stop the decline, and support the recovery of these species and ecological communities.
At the time of this writing, a national recovery plan has been prepared for trout cod and Murray cod and a plan is being prepared for Macquarie perch. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has produced action plans for trout cod, freshwater catfish and silver perch.
River health and regional catchment strategies
The Victorian River Health Strategy outlines the policies for specific management activities that affect river health and provides the framework in which the Government in partnership with the community makes decisions on the management and restoration of Victoria's rivers (Department of Natural Resources and Environment 2002b). These policies aim to prevent damage to river health from management activities including water allocation and environmental flows; management of water quality; and management of riparian land and the river channel.
Regional catchment strategies provide the overarching, long-term direction for developing, managing and conserving river health, water quality and economic and social values. In the Goulburn-Broken region, the Goulburn Broken Regional Catchment Strategy is the foundation for investment decisions that ensure improved natural resource outcomes (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2003). Under regional catchment strategies, catchment management authorities develop regional river health strategies which are the basis of coordinating river-related management plans (e.g. fisheries management, flow, water quality, waterway and floodplain management) and provide direction for waterway management. The Goulburn Broken Regional River Health Strategy combines all elements of river management in a single document, integrates river health programs and considers water quality and quantity, flow, in-stream and riparian flora and fauna, fisheries and recreation (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2005b).
Under the Goulburn Broken Regional River Health Strategy, fishing is an activity of high social value and many of the actions of the strategy are beneficial to recreational fishing. A goal of the strategy is to match fisheries management arrangements and Victorian recreational fishers' aspirations for the fisheries in the Goulburn region (Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority 2005c).
The Victorian Strategy for Healthy Rivers, Estuaries and Wetlands is currently under development by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and will replace the Victorian River Health Strategy. The updated strategy is designed to improve the management framework of Victoria's aquatic ecosystems and is due for release in mid 2011.
Environmental water reserve and the Northern Sustainable Water Strategy
The water available to the environment is the Environmental Water Reserve. The Environmental Water Reserve is used to maintain the environmental values of water systems and the other water services that depend on environmental condition and to sustain biodiversity, ecological function and water quality.
In regulated rivers, the Environmental Water Reserve consists of minimum passing flows, unregulated water flows and regulated water entitlements. Goulburn-Murray Water is responsible for provision of minimum flows, and the Minister for the Environment is responsible for management of regulated entitlement flows. A separate thirty gigalitre water quality reserve is held in Lake Eildon to manage water quality issues in the Goulburn River system and managed by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority.
The Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy was released by the Victorian Government in December 2009. The strategy discusses possible threats to water availability and quality over the next fifty years and outlines actions to manage the consequences to the State of prolonged drought and climate change (Department of Sustainability and Environment 2009d).
Native Fish Strategy
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is responsible for planning integrated management of the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. A key Murray-Darling Basin Authority program is the Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003-2013 (Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council 2004).The overall goal of the strategy is to rehabilitate populations of native fish to sixty per cent of pre-European settlement levels within fifty years. Implementation of Native Fish Strategy in Victoria is generally organised through the Department of Sustainability and Environment and catchment management authorities.
Significant outcomes of the Native Fish Strategy include: partial completion of fish passageways and re-snagging areas of the Murray River; installation of wetland regulators; progress in establishing demonstration reaches; an investigation of the effects of irrigation extraction on fish; and progress in managing carp in the basin (Murray-Darling Basin Authority 2008).