Summary of Submissions

The public consultation process for the North East Fishery Management Plan (the Plan) ran from 13 October 2006 until the 15 December 2006. A total of 22 submissions were received and considered by the North East Fishery Management Plan Steering Committee (the Plan Steering Committee), the Executive Director Fisheries Victoria and the Minister for Agriculture. The submissions included 14 from individuals and 8 from the following organisations: Australian Trout Foundation, Corryong Angling Club, Greenwells Fly Fishing Club, Myrtleford and District Sports Fishing Club, Native Fish Australia, VRFish, Wangaratta Fly Fishing Club and Yarra Valley Fly Fishing Club. Table 1 is a summary of the key issues and the response which was supported by the Plan Steering Committee, the Executive Director Fisheries Victoria and the Minister for Agriculture.

Table 1 – Summary of key issues

Key Issue Response Number of Submissions
Consider changing trout closed season, size and bag limits to ensure sustainability. Strategy 1 contains an Action to monitor trout populations to ensure that the recreational harvest of trout is sustainable. The Fisheries Regulations (the Regulations) for all fishery species including trout are designed to balance the sustainability of the fishery with the expectations of all Victorian anglers. The regulations aim to consider resource conservation and sustainability, while providing for a harvest which is considered socially acceptable. For reasons of enforcement and public understanding, regulations are generally implemented on a statewide basis. A review of salmonid regulations was undertaken with stakeholders in 2005 and no changes to closed season, size or bag limits were recommended. A further review of all fisheries regulations is currently underway. 13
Habitat and environment, water quality, water flows, riparian improvement works. Waterway and aquatic habitat management is the role of management agencies including the Department of Sustainability and Environment and the North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA). The Plan recognises the benefits and potential impacts of habitat and environment improvement works. Through Strategy 9, Fisheries Victoria recognises the importance of habitat and environment (including water quality) in supporting fisheries resources and commits to providing information to habitat and environment management agencies to advocate for positive outcomes for fisheries. The submissions on this issue endorsed the approach described in Strategy 9 and recognised the importance of habitat and environment in supporting recreational fisheries resources. 12
Request for increased funding for research on riverine trout populations In response to public submissions received on the draft, the final Plan was amended and a new Action to monitor trout populations was developed. Strategy 1 now includes an Action to develop a trout monitoring program to provide further information on trout populations in North East streams. Additionally, Fisheries Victoria contracts Primary Industries Research Victoria (Snobs Creek) to undertake monitoring of trout populations when required to complement the large existing knowledge base already in existence about Victoria's riverine trout populations. Monitoring and research projects focussed on trout are also identified through the annual consultative process. 8
Request for more Fisheries Officers and enforcement

There are now 71 Fisheries Officer positions based across 21 stations in Victoria including 6 positions based in Wodonga, Wangaratta, Tatura and Alexandra, all of which work in the North East Region. All Fisheries Officers are working as part of a statewide team and Fisheries Victoria regularly mobilises Fisheries Officers, vehicles and vessels to target priorities whilst maintaining a local presence. Deployment of Fisheries Officers is determined through a statewide resource riskbased prioritisation process. Information from the 13 FISH (ph 133 474) illegal fishing reporting service and other intelligence sources including Fisheries Officers on the ground are considered in the prioritisation of activities and allocation of compliance resources. The creation of the 13 FISH in 2003 has greatly improved the quality and quantity of intelligence coming in, particularly from recreational anglers whose collective capacity to detect illegal activity is substantial.

The day to day activities of regionally based Fisheries Officers are supported by a range of specialist investigators and compliance staff behind the scenes in the recently expanded Statewide Intelligence and Investigations Group. Combined with an escalating multi-agency law enforcement approach to criminal fishing activity, these increased capabilities reflect a crackdown on illegal take of key species such as Murray cod.

Fisheries Officers conduct regular patrols and a visible presence does act as a deterrent to those complying with the regulations, but thinking about doing the wrong thing. Fisheries Victoria also recognises that intelligence driven planned operations, actively targeting people acting illegally, frequently have better compliance outcomes.

Consider stocking trout and native species in streams

Many submissions recognised that stocking is only appropriate where severe events such as drought or fires had limited the capacity of the fishery to be selfsustaining. The annual consultative process considers stocking requests and takes into account the impacts of drought and fires.

Some species for which stocking was requested, such as Macquarie perch, are difficult to breed in numbers sufficient to sustain a fishery stocking program. Issues of translocation must also be considered in any stocking request and the process for approval of stocking requests is described in the Plan. The stocking and translocation assessment processes provide for adaptive management of stocking for both native and trout species.

9 supporting trout stocking 3 against trout stocking 7 in support of native stocking
Request for legalisation of the recreational take of trout cod

Strategy 5 in the Plan contains an Action to develop a small, limited-take trout cod fishery in selected impoundments.

Trout cod have become more abundant in some river systems in the North East region through the implementation of the National Recovery Plan for Trout Cod which is administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE). The Ovens River was stocked with trout cod for ten years with the aim of re-establishing a self-sustaining population of trout cod. Stocking has now ceased. Trout cod have become a significant bycatch for anglers in the Ovens River and some anglers are now calling for the opportunity to legally take trout cod. The DSE is currently monitoring the success of the stocking program to determine the level of natural recruitment, the extent of distribution of population from original release sites and age and length of trout cod at sexual maturity. Native Fish Australia (NFA) prepared a Proposal for the establishment of recreational fisheries for trout cod in Victoria 2006. The proposal reviews and prioritises candidate waters for stocking with trout cod to provide for a recreational fishery. The Draft Trout Cod Recovery Plan recognises that controlled fishing for trout cod, in enclosed waterways such as impoundments, may lead to the growth of fishingbased tourism and greater economic and social benefits for regional communities. The Action in Strategy 5 provides for the development of a trout cod recreational fishery in accordance with the recommendations in the NFA proposal and the Draft Trout Cod Recovery Plan.

Request for classification of streams as native, mixed or trout fisheries

In response to public submissions the Plan has been amended and contains a new Action under Strategy 2 to classify North East streams as native, mixed or trout fisheries. The new Action involves recreational fishing and fisheries management expertise working with the Victorian Recreational Fishing peak body (VRFish) in the preparation of a more detailed Stream Classification Model for the waters of the North East Fishery. The Action provides a process for stakeholder involvement to define the waters to be classified as Native, Mixed or Salmonid fisheries.

The Plan also contains a broad description of Upland, Midland and Lowland rivers and Impoundments management units and includes a summary of the key recreational angling species found in each unit.

Clarification of the wording on Murray cod The Plan has been amended and the wording of the Murray cod section and Strategy 1 have been altered to improve clarity. The revised Strategy 1 aims to provide a scientific basis for assessing the sustainability of current bag and size limits of Murray cod. Fisheries Victoria is supporting the Fisheries Research Development Corporation's (FRDC) study on Murray cod which will also encompass NSW. The FRDC study will include an assessment of Murray cod growth rate and size at maturity, and will provide a scientific foundation for assessing the sustainability of current bag and size limits. 4
Request for artificiallure/ fly-fishing only waters

Strategy 3 is designed to consider the social and economic impacts on all anglers of any restrictions on gear in certain waters which might include artificial-lure/flyfishing only waters.

Fisheries Victoria seeks to develop regulations based on broad acceptance in the angling community. If the study outlined in Strategy 3 in the Plan finds broad community support and economic benefits for artificial-lure/fly-fishing only waters, then fisheries management arrangements will be altered to include artificial-lure/fly-fishing only waters in the North East Fishery.

5 in favour 2 against
Limited access to rivers and streams VRFish have developed an access policy, VRFish Policy Paper - Access for Recreational Fishing (2004), which describes Actions which will address this issue. The Plan considers access through Strategy 8 which commits Fisheries Victoria to assisting VRFish to resolve access issues where appropriate. 2
Request for members of the public to act as honorary wardens to supplement the activities of Fisheries Officers Several issues including legislation, public liability, occupational health and safety and insurance create significant obstacles to the implementation of such a concept. Fisheries Victoria undertakes accreditation programs for all Fisheries Officers in dealing with difficult situations and responding appropriately. Fisheries Officers are comprehensively trained in the application of Standard Operating Procedures which have been externally reviewed to comply with national best practice standards. An effective mechanism through which members of the public can contribute to positive compliance and enforcement outcomes is to report offences through the 13 FISH service (ph 133 474). The request for honorary wardens was not recommended for implementation through the Plan. 2
Steering Committee composition inappropriate The steering committee consists of a range of stakeholders appropriate for the preparation of the Plan. The steering committee included three recreational anglers (two of which are members of VRFish as the recognised recreational fishing peak body and one as a member of the FCC) and two DPI staff. The remaining steering committee members were from the North East CMA, the DSE and the Goulburn-Murray Water. This steering committee structure was considered appropriate as these groups are well placed to advise on the habitat and environment conditions on which fisheries resources depend and on recreational fishing issues. 1