The Inland Waters Classification reviews all rivers, streams, lakes and impoundments in Victoria and classifies each water as a trout, native or mixed fishery to develop and promote Victorian inland recreational fisheries.
More than 720,000 anglers contribute $2.3 billion to Victoria's regional economy through recreational fishing related annual expenditure. At least sixty per cent of anglers fish in inland and estuarine waters (VRFish 2009).
In November 2006 the Victorian Government committed to working with anglers to classify rivers and streams throughout the State.
This classification scheme will be used to identify how different rivers and river systems would be managed in the future as 'native only', 'trout and salmonid only' or 'mixed' fisheries. These fisheries are largely defined already by the natural range in which different fish species can survive, but formalising future management objectives would serve to bring greater security and transparency over future actions in these areas.
Fisheries Victoria undertook a process to classify inland waters in Victoria. This Inland Waters Classification is based on The Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model 2008 (the Model) prepared by Fisheries Victoria in consultation with a Stream Classification Committee. The Committee included members of Native Fish Australia, Australian Trout Foundation and VRFish. The cooperation and collaboration between these groups demonstrated significant goodwill in representing recreational fishers and assisted Fisheries Victoria in the preparation of the Model.
A draft Model was presented at public meetings in Bright, Wodonga, Corryong and Melbourne and released for public comment in May 2008. Following consideration of the public submissions, the Model was endorsed by the Minister for Agriculture on 23 March 2009.
The Model outlined a process for classifying rivers, streams and impoundments into the categories of native, trout and mixed fisheries. The Model applied a trial classification to the North East region as a first step in the statewide application of this new Classification. The Model provided the framework for the Classification outlined in this document.
The purpose of the Classification is to support the development and promotion of trout, native and mixed fisheries. The Classification will map and broadly describe the range of angling species in the context of waterway management, biodiversity and socio-economic values.
The objectives of the Classification are to:
- Classify Victorian rivers, streams and impoundments based on native, trout and mixed fisheries.
- Secure, grow and share potential benefits from Victoria's inland fisheries with the wider community by using established and contemporary knowledge of Victoria's fisheries.
- Inform natural resource management agencies of the management of waterways from a fisheries-based perspective.
- Communicate fishery management objectives and provide greater transparency.
The Classification is constrained by the following. The Classification:
- will not consider classification of streams, rivers and impoundments based on fishing method. (For example, the Classification will not be based on the use of lure, fly or bait fishing methods)
- will not affect existing access of any waters to any fisher.
- will not consider different size and bag limits for fish within classifications unless there is evidence of sustainability concerns.
- will not affect fisheries regulations such as closed seasons or closed waters for native or trout fisheries.
- will inform but will not dictate fish stocking. Decisions on fish stocking will be made through the established consultative process1.
- will inform but will not determine the conservation and biodiversity aims of other agencies.
1 As prescribed by the department's Fish Stocking For Recreational Purposes policy.
This fishery Classification process was undertaken by Fisheries Victoria in consultation with an Inland Waters Classification Reference Group (the Reference Group).
The Reference Group comprised individuals with expertise in trout, native and mixed fisheries and included representatives of Native Fish Australia, the fishing industry, the Australian Trout Foundation and VRFish.
The Classification was released for public comment and the Reference Group considered all comments prior to finalising the Classification. The public submissions resulted in the Reference Group recommending changes to boundaries of Native, Mixed and Trout classified in some areas.
Classification of waters was a two-stage process as prescribed in the Classification Model where a Preliminary Assessment may be followed by a Criteria Assessment to determine waterway Classification. The Preliminary Assessment considers factors on the entire waterway area to determine a broad classification. This may be followed by a Criteria Assessment to determine a location to divide a waterway, where the classification varies along its length. There is no weighting or hierarchy in either the Preliminary or Criteria assessments.
Species evidence: Species known to be present in the basin.
Known range of species: The recorded range of angling species throughout the waterbody or reach, including credible historical records.
Waterway management: How the waterway is managed in relation to the requirements of the angling species. For example, is the river a tailrace fishery?
Threatened species: Does the basin support a fish species listed in a National Recovery Plan or State Action Statement that may be affected by the Classification.
Socio-economic value: The extent to which the species or fishery contributes to the economic and social value to the region.
Where the results point predominately to one category, then the waterway may be classified based on this Preliminary Assessment. Where the results of the Preliminary Assessment suggest answers weighted evenly between native and trout conditions or circumstances, then a mixed fishery should be considered.
Where a Preliminary Assessment finds variable classifications in different areas of a waterway, the waterway may need to be divided geographically into different categories using easily identifiable boundaries such as roads, bridges, reservoirs, towns or river junctions using the Criteria Assessment. Where the Preliminary Assessment finds a consistent classification outcome along the length of the waterway, this classification should be applied.
To decide the appropriate locations to divide the waterway, the Criteria Assessment should consider the following:
Flow: Does the waterway section have a natural unregulated flow or regulated flow?
Habitat: What are the habitat conditions in sections of the waterway?
Identifiable structure: Are there identifiable structures such as stream junctions, towns or bridges to act as landmarks to divide the fishery classifications.
This Classification is based on the Classification Model which outlined the scope and key principles that should guide the classification of waters. The principles and scope aim to ensure the classifications are practical and consistent with government policy.
Principles: The following guiding principles were used to develop the Model and this Classification:
- Simple to understand and apply
- Useable and cost effective to develop
- Consistent with existing policies and procedures including with the Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria, the Protocols for the Translocation of Fish in Victorian Inland Public Waters
- Consistent with reduction in regulatory burden
- A classification that applies to a river or stream applies to all tributaries within that section, unless otherwise stated.
In addition to the above principles a scope, the public submission process raised several issues which are explained and clarified below.
Threatened and endangered species
The Classification process recognises the importance of threatened and endangered species as part of the Preliminary Assessment. Key threatened and endangered species are listed in each Basin throughout the document under the heading Threatened fish species.
Recreational anglers support efforts to preserve biodiversity and are working to improve outcomes for threatened and endangered species in Victoria, for example the endangered barred galaxias (Galaxias fuscus) is restricted to six small streams in the upper reaches of the Goulburn River between Marysville and Mount Howitt. Recreational anglers, including members of the Australian Trout Foundation, have worked with government agencies to restore habitat for this species in an area affected by bushfire.
The areas denoted 'Endangered species recovery area' on the map of the Goulburn-Broken Basin in the Classification recognises sites where barred galaxias and other threatened and endangered species including the spotted tree frog (Litoria spenceri) are present.
Fisheries Victoria recognises that redfin are a popular recreational species targeted by many anglers throughout Victoria. In many areas of Victoria, anglers targeting redfin provide social and economic benefits to regional towns. It is also recognised that redfin are implicated as threats to other species and are effective biological competitors with widespread, abundant and self-sustaining populations. As a consequence, the Classification Model recommended that redfin not be subject to Classification.
In the Classification, Fisheries Victoria recognises the value of the redfin by highlighting important redfin fisheries in each Region in the Socio-economic value sections of the Preliminary assessment throughout the document. The species are also highlighted in the Species evidence and Known range of angling species sections of the Preliminary assessment.
Carp has been declared as a noxious aquatic species under the Fisheries Act 1995 and it is an offence to return carp to the water alive. For this reason, the presence of carp in a Region or waterway does not influence the Classification.
Water supply catchments such as the Upper Yarra are 'closed catchments' for water supply purposes and public access in these areas is prohibited. Fishing is not permitted in closed catchments even though they are included in the classification maps.
During the preparation of the Classification, Fisheries Victoria reviewed predicted climate change influences on the long term sustainability of Victoria's inland fisheries resources. Fisheries Victoria considered a range of predicted fishery species distributions under several climate change scenarios and found that predicted distributions for the coming decade were similar to current distributions resulting from the previous decade of drought. In deciding on classifications, the Reference Group took into consideration the range of likely changes in current distribution, habitat suitability and climate change scenarios and classified waters as considered appropriate.
Review of the Classification
Fisheries Victoria recognises the need for an adaptive management response where climatic conditions, changes in water storage, habitat and stream flow influence fisheries. It is anticipated that policy driven changes to water flow for human consumption, agriculture and the environment may occur as Victoria responds to the effects of long-term drought.
This Classification will provide input into fishery management processes for a period of at least ten years from the date of release.
Preparation of a new Classification will begin with a review of the Classification Model and criteria assessments. The need for a new or amended Classification will be considered in accordance with the outcomes of monitoring, research and fisheries management objectives.
Amendment to the Classification may require a public consultation process. A review and a new Classification may be undertaken if Fisheries Victoria determines that significant changes in one or more of the Preliminary Assessment criteria have been demonstrated.
Where a new Classification is required for a specific river or stream, Fisheries Victoria will invite expressions of interest from four key areas of expertise: fisheries management, native, trout and mixed fisheries to establish a Reference Group to provide advice to on the review of the Classification.
The Classification Model and the Classification may be reviewed by Fisheries Victoria prior to the review date. Submissions in support of changes in classification can be made to Fisheries Victoria and will be assessed by Fisheries Victoria in consultation with the Reference Group.