Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
Fisheries Victoria Management Report Series No. 68
ISBN 978-1-74217-327-6 (online)
Preferred way to cite this publication:
Department of Primary Industries 2009, Wimmera Fishery Management Plan, Fisheries Victoria Management Report Series No. 68, Department of Primary Industries, Melbourne.
The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan specifies the objectives, strategies and actions for managing recreational fishing activities in the Wimmera fishery in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. This includes environmental, social, economic and governance issues in the fishery.
The Wimmera fishery includes all inland waters (as defined in the Fisheries Act 1995) in the area administered by the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority.
For the purpose of this plan, the Wimmera fishery does not include commercial bait or eel fishing or aquaculture ventures as these are managed through other management arrangements.
The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan describes the key lakes and rivers; key recreational fishing species; current management arrangements for recreational fishing; and the goals, objectives, strategies, actions, performance indicators and targets for the management of recreation fishing activities. It includes processes for participating in the management of other relevant issues to ensure possible adverse consequences to fish habitat are identified and responsible agencies notified.
Ten strategies are identified for the sustainable management of the Wimmera fishery. Actions to implement these strategies include:
- Establishing a general fisher diary program to monitor the recreational catch composition and catch and effort trends in the fishery
- Establishing a research fisher diary program to monitor population dynamics of freshwater catfish in the Wimmera River
- Stocking fish in support of recreational fishing where appropriate
- Applying the Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model to identify native, mixed and salmonid fisheries
- Identifying opportunities to improve access to fisheries resources through VRFish
- Providing advice on environmental requirements of recreational fishing target species and advocating for positive fishery outcomes to other agencies
- Raising community awareness of fishing controls and responsible fisher conduct.
Where there is a need to alter management arrangements to ensure sustainable use or to meet changing demands for recreational fishing opportunities, changes will be considered in consultation with stakeholders and other management agencies.
The Department of Primary Industries (DPI) is charged with the sustainable development of Victoria's primary industries for the benefit of all Victorians, now and into the future. Fisheries Victoria, a division of DPI, works with its stakeholders to facilitate the sustainable development of recreational and commercial fishing and manages fisheries resources for the benefit of the community.
The Fisheries division (Fisheries Victoria) of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) works with its stakeholders to facilitate the sustainable development of fisheries resources. A key task in sustainable management is the prepartion and implementation of fishery management plans.
Fishery management plans specify the goals, objectives, strategies, actions, performance measures and targets for managing fishing activities in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
Recreational fishing is the primary fishing activity in Victoria's rivers, tributaries, lakes and impoundments. Other fishing activities in inland areas of Victoria include commercial bait and eel fishing and aquaculture. Inland fishery management plans focus on managing recreational fishing activities with the aim of enhancing environmental, social and economic outcomes. Inland fishery management plans recognise the importance of fisheries resources to Aboriginal communities.
Inland fishery management plans are prepared with a strong focus on establishing partnerships with relevant catchment and water management agencies. Effectively managing inland fisheries requires the implementation of appropriate fisheries management tools (for example, bag and size limits) and recognition that other human activities in the catchment may be equally or more important to sustaining fish stocks.
The Wimmera Catchment Management Authority is one of ten catchment management authorities with responsibility for managing catchments including their waterways in Victoria. Catchment management authorities develop and implement Regional Catchment Strategies and sub-strategies such as the Regional River Health Strategies.
To effectively align catchment and fishery management strategies and the efficient delivery of management actions, this fishery management plan is aligned with the boundaries of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (Figure 1).
The Wimmera fishery includes all inland waters, as defined in the Fisheries Act 1995, within the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority. This includes rivers, lakes, reservoirs and dams that are not located on private property.
The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan recognises that management of fishery resources may occur at scales larger than the boundaries of individual catchment management authorities. Fisheries Victoria has identified key asset groups of similar species and ecological characteristics and manages these groups appropriately.
Figure 1: Map of the Wimmera fishery. CMA = Catchment Management Authority
Description of the Wimmera region
The Wimmera region encompasses an area of approximately 23,500 square kilometres in western Victoria and has a population of about 44,000 persons. The region includes the Grampian Ranges, the Little Desert, the Wimmera River basin, the Millicent Coast basin and about one quarter of all Victoria's wetlands.
Maximum temperatures during summer range from 27 to 30°C and during winter from 13 to 15°C. Frosts are common (DSE 2008). The annual rainfall in the region is 490 millimetres with most falling during winter.
The Wimmera region includes the municipalities of Hindmarsh, Yarriambiack, Northern Grampians, West Wimmera, Horsham Rural City and parts of Ararat, Buloke and Pyrenees shires. The majority of the population lives in the key regional centres of Horsham and Stawell and in smaller towns such as Warracknabeal, Nhill, Dimboola and Edenhope.
The main industry in the Wimmera region is agriculture, primarily broad-acre cropping and livestock production. Major crops include various grains (e.g. wheat, oats and barley), pulses (e.g. lentils and chickpeas) and oilseeds (e.g. canola). Meat has overtaken wool as the major livestock product. The Wimmera River between Polkemmet (ten kilometres northwest of Horsham) and the Wirrengren Plain is a Heritage River area under the Heritage Rivers Act 1992. Although the Heritage Rivers Act prohibits some land and water-related activities within Heritage River areas, fishing is permitted where public access is allowed.
There are three national parks (the Little Desert, the Grampians and the Wyperfield), two state parks (the Black Range and the Mount Arapiles-Tooan) and numerous local parks and reserves including the Lake Albacutya Park and Lake Hindmarsh Reserve within the Wimmera region.
Fishing is permitted in many parks and reserves in accordance with prescribed fishing regulations. Information on fishing in specific parks and reserves is available from the Parks Victoria at 13 1963 or www.parkweb.vic.gov.au.
Wimmera River basin
The Wimmera River basin covers an area of about 2.4 million hectares and feeds the Wimmera River and its tributaries including the MacKenzie River and the Norton, Burnt, Mount William, Concongella, Mount Cole and Wattle creeks. It is the major waterway of the Wimmera region and flows into terminal lakes including Lakes Hindmarsh and Lake Albacutya. The Wimmera River is the largest river in Victoria that does not drain to the sea.
The Yarriambiack and Dunmunkle creeks are tributaries which carry water away from the Wimmera River. The Yarriambiack Creek takes water into Lake Coorong and the Dunmunkle Creek flows north dissipating in the southern Mallee.
The major lakes and impoundments in the Wimmera River basin are the Toolondo Reservoir, Taylor Lake, Fyans Lake, Bellfield Lake, Wartook Reservoir, Lonsdale Lake, Natimuk Lake and Green Lake. The Douglas depression, south of Natimuk, contains numerous saline lakes.
Lake Albacutya is an internationally protected wetland that is listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (i.e. the Ramsar Convention). The Ramsar Convention also recognises waterways that supply water to wetlands of international importance (Environment Australia 2001), such as the Mosquito Creek which is the main water source for Bool and Hacks Lagoons Ramsar site in South Australia. Changes in land and water use over many decades and climatic conditions mean Lake Albacutya is frequently dry.
Fishing is permitted within Ramsar sites including Lake Albacutya.
Millicent Coast basin
The Millicent Coast basin is characterised by wetlands, terminal streams and small ephemeral west-flowing streams. There are a number of streams, including the Mosquito, Koijak, Morambro, Tatiara and Thompson creeks, which flow into South Australia.
Of the approximately 3,000 wetlands in the Wimmera region, the majority are in the Millicent Coast basin and about 90 per cent are on private land. The wetlands in the Millicent Coast basin are typically fresh water and many are ecologically significant (Environment Australia 2001). Some wetlands are used as water storages and or recreational areas and are economically important for agriculture and tourism.
The most recent study of recreational fishers in Australia, the National Recreational and Indigenous Fishing Survey showed there were approximately 550,000 active recreational anglers in Victoria who divided their fishing effort about equally between fresh and marine species. Approximately 58 per cent of fishers were based in the Melbourne area (Henry and Lyle 2003).
The survey found that Victorians spent approximately $400 million per annum on goods and services associated with recreational fishing. At $721 per person, this is the highest per capita expenditure in Australia.
Family Fishing Lakes Program
The DPI Family Fishing Lakes Program provides recreational fishing opportunities for fishers of all ages and abilities at locations within or near population centres throughout the State. Under the program, 150 to 200 gram ready-to-catch trout are stocked into family fishing lakes at times that maximise fishing opportunities (e.g. second or third term school holidays, fishing weeks or junior fishing clinic events).
Family Fishing Lakes in the Wimmera region are detailed in the Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide that is available at most fishing tackle shops and at www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/.
At the time of writing, the Wimmera region has been in an extended period of drought. The majority of lakes and impoundments contain little or no water and some rivers are reduced to a series of pools. A number of traditionally popular fishing locations are dry causing fishers to visit less popular fishing locations that contain water or to pursue fishing opportunities outside of the Wimmera region.
Since 1993, fish stocking by DPI has been progressively reduced due to unfavourable environmental conditions. Several fish death events, most involving European carp (Cyprinus carpio), a noxious aquatic species under the Fisheries Act 1995, have resulted from lack of water and or poor water quality. The Victorian Environment Protection Authority is the lead agency in responding to fish death events.
Biomass reduction and fish relocation activities have been conducted in impoundments where the likelihood of the lake evaporating and consequences of a large fish death event was high. Biomass reduction is undertaken by water authorities and historically targets introduced species. Relocation activities have been conducted for Murray cod in Booroopki, Charliegrak, and Green lakes.
Wimmera Mallee pipeline
To achieve water savings, GWMWater, the water corporation that services the Grampians, Wimmera and Mallee regions, is constructing the Wimmera Mallee pipeline. This project will convert approximately 17,800 kilometres of open irrigation channel to 8,800 kilometres of pipeline infrastructure and is expected to return to the environment an average of 83,000 megalitres per year of water presently lost through evaporation and seepage and to make available an additional 20,000 megalitres per year of water for new developments. In addition, up to 4,000 megalitres of water will be made available to nominated regional recreational lakes and other local water bodies with high conservation value.
Commercial fishing and aquaculture
Commercial fishing activity within the Wimmera region is undertaken by a small number of bait licence holders. Bait licences authorise the harvest and sale of bait species, including yabbies, using prescribed commercial fishing equipment. Bait licences are issued in accordance with ecologically sustainable development principles.
Albacutya and Hindmarsh lakes were historically small but locally significant commercial redfin and yabbies fisheries. Commercial fishing is no longer permitted in these lakes.
An aquaculture licence is required to use, form or create a habitat for hatching, rearing, breeding, displaying or growing fish for sale or other commercial purposes. Few aquaculture licences have been issued within the Wimmera region and none authorise aquaculture activities on Crown land.
Key asset groups
A basis for strategic state-wide fisheries management is the grouping of areas with similar environmental, geomorphological and fishery species characteristics into key asset groups.
The Wimmera fishery contains the following key asset groups:
Key asset groups will not be used as the basis for introducing fishing regulations at smaller spatial scales.
The following sections provide information on the recreational fishing species relevant to each key asset group. Information has been obtained from the Guide to Inland Angling Waters of Victoria (Tunbridge 2002), from Fisheries Victoria regional staff and through the public consultation undertaken during the preparation of this management plan.
Rivers in the Wimmera region include wide slow-flowing rivers flowing through grazing and agricultural land and smaller inland creeks. The Wimmera and Mackenzie Rivers and the Mount William and Fyans Creeks are popular recreational fishing locations in the region.
Key recreational fishing species include golden perch, redfin, Murray cod, brown and rainbow trout, freshwater catfish, silver perch, river blackfish and yabbies.
Lakes include all static water bodies and impoundments that support or have supported fish species targeted by recreational fishers. Many of these lakes and impoundments have been stocked and are popular areas for recreational fishing.
The lakes key asset group includes Bellfield, Charlegrak, Fyans, Green, Lonsdale, Natimuk and Taylor Lakes and Toolondo and Wartook Reservoirs.
As in rivers, key recreational fishing species include golden perch, redfin, Murray cod, brown and rainbow trout, freshwater catfish, silver perch, river blackfish and yabbies.
Key native recreational fishing species inside their natural range
Yabbies and river blackfish were identified during public consultation as the key native recreational fishing species inside their natural range (Appendix 1).
Yabbies (Cherax destructor) inhabit most freshwater creeks, rivers, ponds, wetlands, lakes and impoundments in Victoria. The species can survive long periods of drought by burrowing deep into the soil.
Yabbies are opportunistic omnivorous that feed mainly on small invertebrates and detritus.
River blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) are widely distributed throughout Victoria (DPI 2003) and inhabit many rivers and tributaries across the Wimmera fishery.
River blackfish prefer cool, clear streams with gravel, cobble or boulder substrate and abundant cover. Adult and older juvenile river blackfish prefer an abundance of snags and cover (Jackson and Davies 1983) in well oxygenated waters (Fletcher 1979). Introduction of artificial habitat including boulders and woody habitat to otherwise sparse bottom has increased abundance and confirmed its preference for instream habitat and shelter where high water velocities are present (Koehn 1987).
River blackfish are carnivores and feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fish and molluscs (Koehn and O'Connor 1990).
Key native recreational fishing species outside their natural range
Freshwater catfish, Murray cod, silver perch and golden perch were identified during public consultation as key native recreational fishing species outside of their natural range.
Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) is Australia's largest native freshwater fish and occurs naturally in the upper reaches of the Murray-Darling River system. Although there are still good populations of Murray cod and their range has remained relatively constant, the species has undergone an extensive decline in abundance since European settlement. Reasons for the decline include habitat loss and degradation, pollution, barriers to fish passage, flow regulation, cold water releases from dams, predation of young fish by other fish and fishing.
Murray cod are generally found in or near relatively deep water and prefer habitats including rocks, large wooden snags, smaller woody habitat, under-cut banks and overhanging vegetation (Rowland 1988; Harris and Rowland 1996; Koehn 1997). Murray cod live and breed in lakes and rivers where water conditions and habitat are suitable.
Murray cod is a threatened species under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and a vulnerable species under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
Golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) occur naturally in the Murray-Darling, Dawson-Fitzroy, Lake Eyre and Bulloo drainages (Lake 1971). The species prefers warm, turbid slow-flowing streams but is also found in fast-flowing streams, rivers and backwaters.
Freshwater catfish (Tandanus tandanus) occur naturally throughout the Murray-Darling Basin and eastern drainages in New South Wales and Queensland. Morphological and genetic differences suggest there are several undescribed species or sub-species inhabiting coastal drainages (Clunie and Koehn 2001).
The species is most abundant in lakes and backwaters and is found in slow flowing water, deeper pools, undercut banks, bedrock substrate, root masses and large woody habitat.
Surveys in the Murray-Darling Basin indicate that freshwater catfish populations are at extremely low levels (Gehrke et al. 1997) and the species is listed as a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and an action statement for the species has been prepared (DSE 2005a).
Although freshwater catfish has been introduced into the Wimmera, Latrobe and Yarra River basins, the species has become established only in the Wimmera basin. Establishment may have been facilitated by the environmental conditions of the Wimmera region including highly variable annual discharge levels, a natural water flow cycle due to small weir diversions, off-stream impoundments and irrigation water supply via channels rather than rivers (Anderson and Morison 1989) and, at times, poor water quality including high salinities and low dissolved oxygen concentrations.
Silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) occur naturally in rivers and large streams with variable flow regimes, lakes and impoundments throughout the lowland areas of the Murray- Darling Basin. Silver perch are listed as a threatened species under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and an action statement for the species has been prepared (DSE 2005b).
Key introduced recreational fishing species
Brown and rainbow trout and redfin were identified during public consultation as the key recreational fishing species introduced into the Wimmera fishery. These species have been introduced widely to provide sport-fishing opportunities.
Brown trout (Salmo trutta) are native to the cool waters of Europe and were introduced to Australia in the midnineteenth century from Scotland (McDowall 1996). Brown trout are widely distributed in the cooler waters of the Wimmera Catchment.
The ideal habitat for brown trout is cool, well-oxygenated waters such as rivers and streams with moderate to fast flows. Suitable waterways generally occur in mountainous areas and feature adequate cover including submerged rocks, undercut banks and overhanging vegetation. Lakes where suitable water quality, habitat and food exist generally support brown trout populations.
Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are native to the Pacific coast of North America and were introduced to Australia in the late nineteenth century from New Zealand where the species had previously been introduced from California. Like brown trout, rainbow trout was introduced to satisfy a sport fishing market (McDowall 1996).
Rainbow trout tolerate slightly higher water temperatures and are more successful in lakes than brown trout. When brown trout and rainbow trout share common habitat, brown trout are generally more abundant. Like brown trout, rainbow trout are widely distributed in the cooler waters of the Wimmera basin.
Redfin (Perca fluviatilis), or English perch, was introduced to Australia from Europe during the mid-nineteenth century (McDowall 1996). Redfin prefer lakes or slow flowing rivers with abundant aquatic vegetation.
Redfin are susceptible to the lethal epizootic haematopoietic necrosis virus, particularly if they are subject to heat stress during summer months.
Other introduced species
Other introduced species include European carp (Cyprinus carpio) and tench (Tinca tinca) which are targeted by some fishers. In Victoria, European carp has been declared under the Fisheries Act as a noxious aquatic species and it is an offence to return the species to the water alive.
Regulatory and policy framework
DPI manages the sustainable use of fisheries resources and maintains, and where possible, enhances, recreational fishing opportunities.
The following sections describe the policy, legislative tools, management processes and current regulations relevant to recreational fishing in Victoria. These management arrangements provide a framework for sustainably managing the fisheries resources within the Wimmera fishery.
Fisheries Act 1995 and Fisheries Regulations 2009
The Fisheries Act 1995 is administered by Fisheries Victoria, a division of Department of Primary Industries. Fishing activities in all Victorian waters are managed under the provisions of the Fisheries Act and the Fisheries Regulations.
The Fisheries Act provides a legislative framework for the regulation and management of Victorian fisheries and for the conservation of fisheries resources, including their supporting aquatic habitats. The objectives of the Fisheries Act include:
- To provide for the management, development and use of Victoria's fisheries, aquaculture industries and associated aquatic biological resources in an efficient, effective and ecologically sustainable manner
- To protect and conserve fisheries resources, habitats and ecosystems including the maintenance of aquatic ecological processes and genetic diversity
- To promote sustainable commercial fishing, viable aquaculture industries and quality recreational fishing opportunities for the benefit of present and future generations
- To facilitate access to fisheries resources for commercial, recreational, traditional and non-consumptive uses
- To encourage the participation of resource users and the community in fisheries management.
The Fisheries Act provides for the development, implementation and review of fishery management plans; facilitates participation of stakeholders in fisheries management via specified principles of consultation; and prescribes enforcement powers to assist in achieving compliance with fishing controls.
The Fisheries Regulations exist to meet the expectations of the Victorian community in regard to fisheries resource management. They ensure fish resources are conserved and their supporting habitats protected; fishing activities are managed so that resource use is sustainable; and fishing practices and fisher behaviour are socially acceptable. 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.
The provisions of fisheries legislation are only applied to the control of fishing activities. Other human activities (e.g. catchment land use, foreshore management, competing water-based recreational activities) that may affect fish habitats, fishery resources or the quality of fishing are managed by other agencies under a variety of legislation.
A selection of State and Commonwealth legislation that have implications for fisheries management is summarised in Appendix 12.
The Fisheries Act and the Fisheries Regulations are available at www.legislation.vic.gov.au.
Victoria's inland waterways are, for the purposes of managing salmonid fisheries, defined by whether or not they have a closed season and daily bag and size limits: Family Fishing Lakes; lakes and impoundments; tailrace rivers; searun trout rivers; and other streams.
Regulations that are specific to each type of waterway are found in the Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide.
Requirement to land fish in whole or carcass form
To ensure an individual's adherence to size and or catch limits, catches of certain fish species must, in, on or next to inland waters, be retained either whole or in carcass form.
For scale fish, a carcass is the body of a fish which is not cut or mutilated other than to remove the gut, gills or scales. A carcass of a spiny freshwater crayfish is the body of a crayfish which is not cut in any way other than to remove one or more legs or claws; or is not mutilated in any way other than the absence of one or more legs or claws.
Control of noxious aquatic species
It is illegal for a person to bring live noxious aquatic species into Victoria or to take, hatch, keep, possess, sell, transport, put in any container or release into protected waters live noxious aquatic species. If a noxious aquatic species is taken in the course of recreational fishing, it is an offence to return that animal to the water alive.
Noxious aquatic species are declared under the Fisheries Act and include European carp, marron (Cherax tenuimanus and C. cainii), oriental weatherloach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) and mosquitofish (Gambusia sp.).
A list of declared noxious aquatic species is available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Fisheries policy framework
Fisheries Victoria's strategic direction
Fisheries Victoria manages the State's fisheries in the context of increasing competition for water and access to fisheries resources and increasing pressures on fish habitats that result from other uses. Establishing clear directions is critical to Fisheries Victoria's ability to maintain and effectively manage the State's fishery resources. Fisheries Victoria manages fisheries resources by developing and implementing policies and projects and delivering a wide range of services.
The objectives of fisheries management are changing with community expectations. While fisheries were once managed to maximise yields and employment, they are now managed for maximum sustainable yield and to maintain viable industries. Management focuses on securing a longterm, high quality natural resource base and generating jobs and other socio-economic benefits in and for Victorian communities.
Fisheries Victoria's vision of success is to develop and manage Victoria's fisheries resources within an ecologically sustainable development framework to ensure fish now and for the future (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Fisheries Victoria vision of success.
Fisheries Victoria secures the fish by sustainably managing the State's fisheries resources which are shared by allocating them in the public interest. The value of the resource is grown by developing competitive and efficient fishing industries.
Fisheries Victoria's vision and directions underpin its projects, policies and services. The vision and strategic directions are achieved with the cooperation and support of the community, industry and other government agencies and within the established legislative and policy framework.
Ecologically sustainable development and ecosystem-based fishery management
The Commonwealth and all state governments are committed to managing fisheries in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (Fletcher et al 2002).
The principles of ESD include: ensuring that fishing is carried out in an ecologically sustainable manner; ensuring equity within and between generations; maximising economic and social benefits; adopting a precautionary approach to management (DEWHA 1992); and ensuring that the processes and procedures are appropriate, transparent and inclusive.
Ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) addresses the ecosystem rather than target species. Fisheries Victoria undertakes a risk-based approach to implement EBFM so that the highest risks to fisheries and or supporting ecosystems are addressed as a priority, planned for and identified risks monitored.
Victorian Climate Change Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture
The Victorian Climate Change Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture 2008-2018 (DPI 2008a) will help to ensure the long-term sustainability of Victoria's fisheries resources by guiding activities that support the fishing and aquaculture sectors and fisheries managers to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.
The strategy covers fishing and aquaculture activities in inland and marine waters and explains the roles of the Victorian Government and the fishing and aquaculture sectors in preparing for climate change and the manner in which the Victorian Government will support adaptation changes.
Research conducted under the strategy will assist the fishing and aquaculture sectors to implement actions that manage their exposure to climate change risks and to successfully meet challenges and opportunities; be used by the Victorian Government to assist the industry to prepare for these challenges; and inform reviews of legislation, plans and policies necessary to sustainably manage fisheries resources within a changing climate.
The Victorian Climate Change Strategy for Fisheries and Aquaculture is available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Fisheries consultative arrangements
The Victorian Government is committed to effectively engaging with stakeholders when making decisions about the sustainability of Victoria's fisheries resources. Principles of consultation are specified in the Section 3A (2) of the Fisheries Act.
A key feature of Fisheries Victoria's consultative framework is the Fisheries Consultative Body (FCB) which includes individuals with expertise in commercial, recreational, aquaculture, Aboriginal fishing and conservation interests. Where a decision which will affect the use and conservation of Victoria's fisheries resources will be made by the Minister or Secretary, including the development of fishery management plans, the FCB is required to provide advice on the design and implementation of purpose-specific, cost effective engagement processes and on the consultation methods that will be employed.
Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model
The Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model will enable fishery managers to classify rivers, streams and impoundments across Victoria as salmonid, native or mixed fisheries (DPI 2008b). Development of the model is consistent with Fisheries Victoria's commitment to secure, grow and share potential benefits from Victoria's inland fisheries with the wider community. The model is a working tool which will be applied to Victorian rivers, streams and impoundments to clarify fisheries management of these water bodies for the next ten years.
Victorian Murray Cod Fishery Management Arrangements
The purposes of the Victorian Murray Cod Fishery Management Arrangements (DPI 2008c) are to: describe state-wide management arrangements for the Murray cod recreational and aquaculture fishery; outline the future challenges facing management of the Murray cod fishery; and set management directions for the species for the next ten years.
The arrangements specify the goals, strategies and actions for the management of the recreational fishery and describe tools that will assist fisheries management in the long-term sustainable development of the Murray cod fishery.
Native fish strategy and national recovery plans
The sustainability of Murray cod is addressed in the Native Fish Strategy for the Murray-Darling Basin 2003-2013 (MDBMC 2004). A key objective of the strategy is to rehabilitate populations of native fish to sixty per cent of pre- European settlement levels within fifty years.
Many of the agencies involved in implementing the native fish strategy operate autonomously in the areas of policy development and spatial and temporal management. The lack of management coordination will be a key challenge to meeting this objective.
The aim of a national recovery plan is to maximise the long term survival in the wild of a threatened species or ecological community by specifying actions that will protect and restore important populations of the species and habitat and to manage and reduce threatening processes.
Recovery plans achieve this aim by providing a planned and logical framework for key interest groups and responsible government agencies to coordinate their work to improve the plight of threatened species and/or ecological communities. Research and management actions necessary to stop the decline of, and support the recovery of, listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities are set out; actions necessary to protect and restore important populations of threatened species and habitat, as well as how to manage and reduce threatening processes are specified. A national recovery plan for Murray cod is in preparation.
Regional recreational fisheries consultation meetings
The Department of Primary Industries stocks fish into inland waters for the purposes of creating, maintaining and or enhancing recreational fisheries. A recreational fisheries consultation process (CONS) is undertaken annually to discuss fish stocking, fish population surveys and other related recreational fisheries management issues.
CONS meetings typically include discussions of: the current native fish and salmonid stocking plans; knowledge gaps to be answered by stock assessments or fisher surveys; statewide fishery management issues; and other relevant fishery issues.
A summary of fish stockings in the Wimmera Catchment between 2003 and 2008 is found in Appendix 3 of this document.
The outcomes of annual CONS meetings are available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Translocation guidelines and protocols
The translocation of live aquatic organisms into and within Victoria has the potential to threaten the biodiversity and ecological integrity of Victoria's freshwater, estuarine and marine systems.
The Victorian Government has developed the Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria to meet its obligations under the National Policy for the Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms (MCFFA 1999; DPI 2009). The Protocols for the Translocation of Fish in Victorian Inland Public Waters was developed to manage the environmental risks of existing and proposed fish stocking programs (DPI 2005).
All proposals to stock public and private waters are assessed in accordance with the translocation guidelines and relevant approved translocation protocols.
Information on the translocation guidelines and protocols is available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Impact of drought on inland fisheries management
Victoria is experiencing a sustained drought which has had a substantial impact on inland fisheries and may result in: mass fish deaths; long or short-term loss of carrying capacity of water bodies (this may be natural or as a result of a water management decision); concentrating fish in small bodies of water thus making them easier to legally or illegally harvest; and changes to species composition.
Fisheries Victoria has developed a policy, Responding to the Impacts of Drought and its Consequences on Inland Recreational Fisheries, to assist in mitigating the impacts from the drought conditions. Mitigation measures include:
- Minimising the risk of mass fish deaths in stocked fisheries
- Advocating for water management regimes that support capability of drought affected water bodies to sustain existing fisheries
- Facilitating processes or provide authorisations to reduce fish biomass
- Assisting the conduct of fish salvage operations
- Supporting the nominated lead agency in fish death response
- Advising on the implication of aeration proposals
- Enacting legislative measure to improve inland recreational fisheries or supportive habitats
- Leading processes to re-establish inland recreational fisheries affected by drought.
Information on the Fisheries Victoria's drought policy is available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Other issues relevant to fisheries management
Aboriginal people have an intimate relationship with the Wimmera region which stretches back over thousands of years and continues into the future. The relationship is reflected throughout the region by recorded cultural sites including middens and scarred trees, and is based on a long tradition of stewardship, utilisation and cultural significance. For Aboriginal people, cultural values are intertwined around traditional uses, spiritual connection, ancestral ties and respect for waterways, land and the resources they provide. Groups wishing to hunt and gather food for traditional ceremonies should seek permission from the relevant traditional owners of the area.
All sites of cultural significance and artefacts are protected by the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Key features of the Aboriginal Heritage Act include:
- The creation of the Aboriginal Heritage Council with membership consisting of traditional owners who will advise on the protection of Aboriginal heritage
- The use of cultural heritage management plans for certain development plans or activities
- The ability for registered Aboriginal parties to evaluate management plans, advise on permit applications, enter into cultural heritage agreements and negotiate repatriation of Aboriginal human remains
- Alternative dispute resolution procedures.
Enquiries in relation to registered or noted sites of cultural significance should be directed to Aboriginal Affairs Victoria. Any proposed works or use of Crown land are required to be carried out in accordance with the 'future acts' provision of the Native Title Act 1993 and the Aboriginal Heritage Act.
Native title rights are non-exclusive rights to hunt, fish, gather and camp for personal, domestic and non-commercial needs. These activities are carried out in accordance with the claimants' traditional laws and customs, state and national laws and with a co-existence protocol to which the parties have agreed and which establishes how the parties will coordinate the exercise of their rights.
Native title rights are recognised in some Crown reserves along the Wimmera River between a point north of Lake Albacutya to the junction of the Wimmera River with Yarriambiack Creek, excluding the waters of the river. The total area where native title is recognised is 269 square kilometres.
This fisheries management plan reflects the Victorian Government's current policy on resource access by Aboriginal Australians. Customary fishing practices by Aboriginal Australians are not identified as a distinct type of fishing activity under current Victorian legislation. Noncommercial fishing by Aboriginal Australians is therefore treated as recreational fishing.
Fisheries Victoria is presently developing a Victorian Aboriginal Fishing Strategy that will inform future management arrangements regarding customary fishing by Aboriginal Australians.
For specified cultural and ceremonial purposes, members of the Aboriginal community may be issued with general fisheries permits that allow rocklobster to be taken beyond the recreational bag limit.
Threatened species and potentially threatening processes
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, which is administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, provides an administrative structure to enable and promote the conservation of Victoria's native flora and fauna, and to provide for the conservation, management or control of flora and fauna and the management of potentially threatening processes.
The following items are potentially threatening processes under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act:
- Alteration to the natural flow regimes of rivers and streams
- Alteration to the natural temperature regimes of rivers and streams
- Degradation of native riparian vegetation along Victorian rivers and streams
- Increase in sediment input into Victorian rivers and streams due to human activities
- Prevention of passage of aquatic biota as a result of the presence of in-stream structures
- Removal of wood debris from Victorian streams. Recreational fishing species which have been listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act are relevant to the Wimmera fishery are freshwater catfish; silver perch; and Murray cod.
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act requires that action statements be developed for listed species in Victoria. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act is available at www.depi.vic.gov.au.
Regional catchment strategy
The integrated management of all natural assets in the Wimmera region is under the direction of the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 (CaLP Act). Under the CaLP Act, the Wimmera CMA, which has waterway, rural drainage and floodplain management roles and responsibilities as defined in the Water Act 1989, prepares regional catchment strategies for the Wimmera region and coordinates and monitors its implementation.
The Wimmera Regional Catchment Strategy 2003-2008 (Wimmera CMA 2003) provides long-term direction for managing the future of land, water resources, biodiversity of the Wimmera region and provides a foundation for investment decisions that ensure improved natural resource outcomes. It is supported by a series of sub-strategies and plans that provide direction for specific asset and threat management programs including the Wimmera Waterway Health Strategy 2006-2011 (Wimmera CMA 2006) and the Wimmera Regional Salinity Action Plan 2005-2010 (Wimmera CMA 2005).
Additional information on the regional catchment strategy is available at www.wcma.vic.gov.au.
Waterway health strategy
The Wimmera Waterway Health Strategy 2006-2011 (Wimmera CMA 2006) was developed by the Wimmera CMA in consultation with the local community and key stakeholders.
The strategy: combines all elements of river management in one document; integrates river health programs into a multidisciplinary framework; considers water quality and quantity, flow, in-stream and riparian flora and fauna, fisheries and recreation; sets priorities and direction for the protection and enhancement of rivers; and provides broad strategic direction for the future waterway management. It guides Government investment and direct development of annual regional works programs.
This strategy sits under the Wimmera Regional Catchment Strategy 2003-2008 (Wimmera CMA 2003) and the Victorian River Health Strategy (DNRE 2002a) and provides the necessary link between the objectives of the State and community and is integral to the Victorian legislative framework protecting the State's waterways.
Fishing is listed as a high social value and many of the actions in the strategy will have positive outcomes for recreational fishing. These goals and objectives include improving fish passage, controlling sedimentation, environmental flows, riparian zones and water quality, reducing bed and bank erosion and willow and weed management.
Local governments are primarily responsible for the planning and provision of services and facilities for the local community, and for providing and maintaining community infrastructure. Local government works in partnership with the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority to set priorities and implement the waterway health strategy.
In relation to fisheries issues, local governments: incorporate river restoration and catchment management objectives and actions into statutory planning processes; Undertake floodplain management in accordance with the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority Floodplain Management Strategy (Wimmera CMA 2001); develop and implement urban storm-water plans; manage rural drainage schemes where appropriate; facilitate local industries' involvement in river restoration and catchment management activities; and provide support for local action groups.
Management of multiple water-based uses in the Wimmera region
The Wimmera region is a popular location for a variety of water-based activities including fishing, waterskiing, sailing, kite-surfing and other personal water-craft use all year round.
In relation to watercraft activities, Marine Safety Victoria is the lead agency. Responsibilities for management of water bodies include local government, Parks Victoria, GWMWater or the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
The GWMWater is the delegated water authority in the Wimmera region under the Water Act and provides, manages, operates and protects water supply and sewerage systems and collection, storage, treatment, transfer and distribution functions for urban customers. GWMWater owns and operates a range of headworks and bulk water supply assets and supplies water to rural domestic and stock customers; 'supply by agreement' rural customers; and irrigation customers around Horsham and Murtoa.
Environmental water reserve
The allocation of water 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.
The environmental water reserve is not a separate physical construction like a dam but can be held within existing water supply storages and released into a waterway or it can be run-of-river flow. Water in the environmental water reserve is legally protected under the Water (Resource Management) Act 2005 and is held by the Crown.
The plan to manage the Wimmera fishery
Scope of this fishery management plan
The overall purpose of this management plan is to formalise management arrangements for the recreational Wimmera fishery in accordance with the provisions of the Fisheries Act, the Ministerial guidelines, and consistent with the principles of ecologically sustainable development.
To achieve its purposes, this plan:
- Specifies goals, objectives, strategies, performance indicators and actions for managing fisheries resources across the Wimmera fishery
- Builds on community feedback, identifies the most valued recreational fishing assets in the fishery and describes the highest priority strategies and actions to mitigate issues and risks that could impact on these assets
- Identifies actions recommended by stakeholders and other management agencies to manage other values and uses of waterways, including the identifying and minimising potential adverse impacts on fish habitat and fisheries.
The process of producing this fishery management plan is described in Appendix 4. Ministerial guidelines are included in Appendix 5.
Definition of the fishery
The Wimmera fishery encompasses recreational fishing in the inland waterways, including lakes and rivers, of the Millicent Coast basin and the southern part of the Wimmera River basin. The fishery is aligned with the boundaries of the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority (Figure 1).
Inland waters are any waterway, channel, lagoon, billabong, reservoir, dam, or water storage under the control of the Crown or a public authority or any other waters declared by the Fisheries Regulations to be inland waters. Waters on private property are not considered inland waters.
The Wimmera fishery does not include commercial bait fishing and aquaculture which are managed under commercial access and aquaculture licensing processes respectively or recreational and commercial eel fisheries which are managed under the Victorian Eel Fishery Management Plan (DNRE 2002b).
Duration of the plan
This management plan came into effect following its declaration by the Minister via a notice in the Victoria Government Gazette and provides the basis for the management of the Wimmera fishery for at least five years from the date of declaration.
Preparation of a new fishery management plan will begin with a review of the goals, objectives, strategies, performance indicators and targets of the current plan. The need for new or amended objectives as a result of monitoring and research information obtained will be considered.
Amendments to this management plan will be made in accordance with the requirements of the Fisheries Act.
Implementing this fishery management plan
In implementing this fishery management plan, most management arrangements, for example catch limits, will remain unchanged and there will be a greater focus on establishing programs to monitor the status of key recreational fishing species and to identify key environmental threats to fisheries resources. If information from monitoring programs indicates a need to alter fishery management arrangements to ensure sustainable use or to meet changing demands for recreational fishing opportunities, changes will be considered in consultation with stakeholders.
Proposed changes to the Fisheries Regulations may require that a Regulatory Impact Statement be prepared and stakeholders consulted under the provisions of the Subordinate Legislation Act 1994.
Wimmera Fishery Reference Group
The Wimmera Fishery Reference Group will be established by Fisheries Victoria to provide a forum for coordinating the implementation of this management plan between agencies. The Reference Group will be established within one year of the declaration of this management and will meet at least once a year for the duration of the plan.
The Reference Group will:
- Provide comment on emerging fishery priorities and directions in the Wimmera
- Provide comment on research findings
- Report on the progress of implementation of Wimmera Fishery Management Plan actions
- Facilitate information exchange between organisations
- Provide comment on any proposed amendment to the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan.
The Reference Group may include representatives from organisations including VRFish, the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victorian National Parks Association, Parks Victoria, GWMWater, local government, the Barendgi Gadjun Land Council and the Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative.
Fisheries Victoria will provide a chairperson and administrative support to the Reference Group.
Fisheries Victoria will fund from its program budget the management plan actions required to meet the objectives of the Fisheries Act. Actions not required to meet these objectives will require funding to be obtained from other sources (e.g. the Recreational Fishing Licence Trust Account or through cost recovery arrangements).
Management goal and objectives
The goal of this management plan is to manage recreational fishing in accordance with the principles of ecologically sustainable development. Ecologically sustainable development enables the ongoing use, conservation and enhancement of fisheries resources such that ecological processes are maintained into the future.
In the context of this management plan, ecologically sustainable development involves: monitoring and research to demonstrate the sustainable harvest of fisheries resources; identifying the habitats and aquatic environments on which fisheries resources depend; and, enhancing social and economic benefits for all Victorians.
In preparing this management plan, the risks to the biological, social, environmental and governance components of the Wimmera fishery were considered in accordance with plan goals. The following broad objectives were established:
- Objective 1: Sustainable use of fishery resources
- Objective 2: Recreational fishing opportunities
- Objective 3: Protection and enhancement of fish habitat
- Objective 4: Compliance with fishery management arrangements.
The strategies, actions, performance indicators and targets for each objective are provided in the following sections and summarised on page 28.
Performance indicators and targets
Performance indicators allow progress in implementing fishery management plans to be tracked and are provided for actions which Fisheries Victoria is responsible. In implementing this management plan, performance indicators may be refined using data obtained from monitoring programs and surveys.
Targets define the benefit of implementing the strategy.
Objective 1: Sustainable use of fishery resources
Strategy 1: Demonstrate the sustainable use of key recreational fishing species
Sustainable management of key recreational fishing species requires that the abundance, size composition and stock structure of fish populations, the fishing pressure being exerted on the species and the environmental impacts on recruitment be understood.
While the greatest threats to freshwater catfish are likely to be environmental conditions (Clunie and Koehn 2001), knowledge of recreational harvest will provide valuable information to guide fisheries management decisions. Limited fisheries monitoring has been conducted in the Wimmera fishery and recent fish surveys have focused on collecting information for river health outcomes rather than fishery management.
The high cost of collecting fishery data limits the number and scale of monitoring programs. Data collection programs established under this management plan will initially focus on freshwater catfish which was identified during public consultation as a popular and unique fishery with selfsustaining populations in the Wimmera region. The species is listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and, in Victoria, can only be legally taken in the Wimmera fishery.
A well-designed research angler diary program can provide scientifically valid information on species' catch rates and size classes and allows fluctuations in year class, abundance and recruitment over time to be observed. Information on pre-recruit (smaller than the legal size) and recruited fish increases the capacity of fishery managers to predict changes in fishery conditions and to plan appropriate management responses.
Priority will be given under this management plan to establishing a research angler diary program using a group of highly skilled volunteer fishers who target freshwater catfish in the Wimmera River. This on-going program will target freshwater catfish in accordance with prescribed sampling methods.
Under this program, hook size, bait and fishing location will be varied within identified water bodies to ensure a representative sample of freshwater catfish stocks is obtained. Information on the species' abundance and length will be collected and fish age will be determined by analysis of otolith or dorsal spines (Davis 1977b). Information from fishing club records and creel surveys may also be used when undertaking reviews of collected data. Unless data collected under this management plan supports a change, current management arrangements will be maintained.
This information may assist other agencies to meet their objectives at reduced cost. For example, sharing data between Fisheries Victoria and the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority may assist in assessing river health and fishery populations.
Fisheries Victoria will, subject to available funding, develop a research angler diary program to obtain information including catch rates and size composition for freshwater catfish in the Wimmera River.
A research angler diary program for freshwater catfish is established within two years of declaring this fishery management plan.
A report detailing the results of the research angler diary program is published within five years of declaring this fishery management plan.
Recreational harvest of key fishing species is sustainably managed in response to information collected from monitoring programs.
Strategy 2: Monitor catch composition and trends for recreational fishing species
The key recreational fishing species in the Wimmera fishery are redfin, brown and rainbow trout, golden perch, Murray cod, silver perch, freshwater catfish and yabbies. Other species including river blackfish, tench, and carp are also taken in the fishery.
Many populations of key recreational fishing species are maintained by stocking programs. Monitoring the catch, effort and composition trends of stocked species allows stocking rates, locations and other fisheries management adaptations to be made. The goal of Strategies 1 and 2 are to monitor trends in the Wimmera fishery and to adapt fisheries management where necessary.
Under this management plan, a general angler diary program will be established to provide information on catch rates and size classes of recreationally caught fish. Significant changes in the catch or a shift in target species may warrant an investigation of the basis of these changes and or a review of fisheries management arrangements.
Fisheries Victoria will, subject to available funding, develop a general angler diary program to obtain information including catch rates and size composition for key recreational species in the Wimmera fishery.
A general angler diary program is established within two years of declaring this fishery management plan. A report detailing the results of the general angler diary program is published within five years of declaring this fishery management plan.
Recreational harvest of key recreational fishing species is sustainably managed in response to information collected from monitoring programs.
Objective 2: Recreational fishing opportunities
Strategy 3: Maintain stockenhanced fisheries
Fisheries Victoria annually stocks an average of 1.1 million salmonid and native fish into Victorian public water for recreational purposes. Stakeholders have input into the process that determines what species go where and when through their participation in the annual regional consultative meetings.
Populations of brown and rainbow trout provide popular recreational fishing opportunities throughout the Wimmera region. Fisheries for these species are based primarily on self-sustaining populations in rivers and on stocked populations in lakes. Fisheries Victoria also stocks golden and silver perch to enhance native recreational fishing opportunities.
Since 2005, Fisheries Victoria has released approximately 63,300 rainbow and brown trout, 93,000 golden perch and 30,000 silver perch into the Wimmera fishery (Appendix 3). Maintaining stock-enhanced fisheries generates important social and economic benefits (Henry and Lyle 2003).
Fisheries Victoria will continue to stock fish in the Wimmera fishery consistent with the outcomes of the Regional Fisheries Consultations Meeting.
Subject to unforseen factors, fish stocking in the Wimmera fishery remains consistent with the outcomes of the Regional Fisheries Consultation process.
Fish stocking is consistent with the targets established in the Regional Fisheries Consultations Meeting Outcomes report.
Strategy 4: Classify waters using the Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model
Fisheries Victoria has worked with recreational fishers to prepare a Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model which can be used as a working tool to classify rivers, streams and impoundments across Victoria as salmonid, native or mixed fisheries. The Classification Model will be a useful tool in promoting Victoria's inland fisheries.
The Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model will be an important part of fisheries management in Victoria and is in aligned with Fisheries Victoria's commitment to secure, grow and share potential benefits from Victoria's inland fisheries with the wider community.
The Inland Waters Classification Taskforce will develop and implement the Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model.
The Victorian Inland Waters Classification Model is applied to the Wimmera fishery within four years of the declaration of this management plan.
Classifying waterways as salmonid, native or mixed fisheries will inform other management agencies how they are managed by Fisheries Victoria. Classification will allow Fisheries Victoria to secure, grow and share benefits from Victoria's inland fisheries with the wider community.
Strategy 5: Improve access for boat-based fishing
Improved access including new or improved boat launching facilities was identified during the public consultation process as a means to enhance recreational fishing opportunities. Adequacy of boat launching infrastructure in other areas not identified during public consultation may require review.
Depending on the waterway, the responsibility for providing and maintaining boat launching facilities rests with agencies including Parks Victoria, committees of management, water authorities and local government.
This management plan supports applications for new or upgrading of existing infrastructure that meet the following criteria:
- The proposal must have the support of the relevant natural resource management agency (i.e. land manager and or water authority)
- The proposal must consider the impact of works on the environment and, where possible, minimise adverse impacts
- The proposal must consider the impact of variations in water levels, particularly during times of drought
- The proposal must align with existing infrastructure such as roads
- The proposal must benefit other recreational boating groups. Proposals for funding are made through the Marine Safety Victoria Boating Safety and Facilities Program at www.marinesafety.vic.gov.au.
VRFish will liaise with fishers, land managers and water authorities to identify and submit applications for new or the upgrade of existing boat launching facilities.
Strategy 6: Improve access for land-based fishing
Land-based fisher access may be the only means of fishing some waterways within the Wimmera fishery.
Work to upgrade roads and tracks is prioritised by land managers and is based on available funding and the needs of the community. The most effective way to achieve improvements to roads and tracks is to influence the prioritisation process by engaging land managers and providing information on the most valued recreational fisheries.
Urbanisation and development around estuarine environments can alienate available access points to recreational fishers. Opportunities may exist for planning by local governments to maintain fisher access in proposals for housing estates and other ventures that privatise land adjacent to fisheries resources.
Fishers identified their lack of knowledge regarding the legal status of land adjoining waterway (for example, Crown frontages, private land) and their right of access as important issues. In its policy, Access for Recreational Fishing (VRFish 2004), VRFish reviewed this issue and made a number of recommendations to improve fisher understanding of access issues across the state.
VRFish will liaise with fishers, land managers, water authorities and other stakeholders to identify and promote new or the upgrade of existing access tracks and facilities. VRFish will implement actions in Access for Recreational Fishing (VRFish 2004) to improve fishers understanding of their rights to access land adjoining recreational fisheries.
Strategy 7: Encourage responsible recreational fishing behaviour
Access to Victoria's fish stocks for recreational purposes brings with it a responsibility to act in an acceptable manner and demonstrate stewardship of the resource. To support Fisheries Victoria in promoting this responsibility, VRFish developed the Victorian Recreational Fishing Code of Conduct. This document provides guidance to recreational fishers on issues such as:
- Protecting the environment
- Respecting the rights of others\
- Attending fishing gear
- Being aware of and complying with fishing restrictions
- Returning unwanted fish to the water
- Valuing fish caught
- Passing on fishing and local knowledge to new fishers.
This Code of Conduct recognises that damage to the environment can indirectly harm fisheries resources and the environment generally. It contains recommendations regarding the appropriate disposal of rubbish, unwanted fishing gear and bait and recommends taking care of the environment and maintaining an awareness of impacts to plants and animals when fishing.
The Victorian Recreational Fishing Code of Conduct is available at www.vrfish.com.au.
VRFish will promote the Victorian Recreational Fishing Code of Conduct to recreational fishers.'
Objective 3: Protection and enhancement of fish habitat
The responsibility for implementing programs to improve habitat and water quality rests primarily with the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Environment Protection Authority, the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage, and the Arts. The provisions of fisheries legislation can only be applied to the management of fishing activities. Other activities (for example catchment land use, foreshore management, and competing water-based recreational activities) that may directly or indirectly affect fish habitats, fishery resources or the quality of fishing, are managed by different agencies and legislation.
Four priority issues have been identified as threats to the habitat and or ecological processes of key recreational fishing species in the Wimmera fishery:
- Altered water flows and diversions of rivers, creeks and streams
- Modifications of lake water levels
- Poor water quality resulting from catchment-related processes
- Loss of in-stream and riparian habitat.
Water flows in Wimmera waterways are typically higher in winter and lower in summer. In addition to natural variations, water flows in some waterways are affected by extraction and diversion for irrigation and urban supply needs.
Many fishery species use seasonal changes as cues to stimulate spawning and migration. Volume and timing of water flow can have major impacts on fisheries production.
Impoundments supply agricultural and or urban water requirements. The volume of stored water will be affected by changes in water demand and weather and climatic patterns. Storage levels can be reduced, especially during drought, and impoundments may be completely dry for extended periods. Low water levels can have significant impacts on fish populations and the fishery including reductions in or complete loss of self-sustaining populations of key recreational species.
Natural inter-seasonal variations in fish abundance often occur as a consequence of climate-induced fluctuations in stream flow and temperature. For some native and introduced fish species, particularly brown trout, water temperature strongly influences reproductive capacity and limits distribution.
Reduced water quality, including eutrophication, increased sedimentation and turbidity from catchment-related processes can impact fisheries resources, particularly at the lower reaches waterways. Stock grazing, removal of riparian vegetation and land clearing are some examples of processes that can increase erosion of nutrient-laden sediments and result in greater incidences of algal blooms and increased sedimentation.
In-stream and riparian habitat
Woody habitat including logs, stems and branches of trees and shrubs accumulates in and is distributed throughout rivers, streams and wetlands. Woody habitat provides refuge and spawning sites for some fishery species and is substrata for a wide variety of invertebrate species that are a food source for them. Loss of this habitat component can negatively affect fishery production.
Riparian land adjoins or directly influences a body of water and includes the land alongside waterways, wetlands and river floodplains which connects with the river during flood. Well-vegetated riparian land improves and maintains water quality by trapping sediment and nutrients, reducing bank erosion and providing food and habitat for aquatic species.
Riparian vegetation regulates water temperature for rivers, streams and wetlands by providing shade. Removal of trees can expose waterways to rapid changes in temperature and fishery species to harmful ultraviolet rays. It is important that native vegetation be planted as soon as possible after willow removal.
Strategy 8: Habitat advocacy for key recreational fishing species
Estuarine and inland waters are facing increasing pressures from human population growth and associated agricultural, industrial, urban and tourism development. There is increasing evidence worldwide that the sustainable use of fishery resources is dependent on controlling the impacts of fishing on fish stocks and on maintaining the integrity of the habitat and the ecological processes they support. The purpose of this strategy is to facilitate the dissemination of information on environmental requirements including habitat, food and life history that affect the productivity of fish species.
Fisheries Victoria will provide advice on environmental requirements of key recreational fishing species to other management agencies.
Advice on the environmental requirements of recreational target species is provided to other agencies to inform policies and programs.
Information regarding the environmental requirements of recreational target species is used by other agencies to develop policy and investment programs.
Objective 4: Compliance with fishery management arrangements
Strategy 9: Educate fishers on sustainable fishing
Community expects fishery resources to be managed at sustainable levels. The Fisheries Act and the Fisheries Regulations provide the legislative framework to assist in the protection of fishery resources. Compliance with this legislation is achieved by maximising voluntary compliance and creating deterrents including penalty infringement notices and prosecutions.
Voluntary compliance is most effectively achieved using education programs that promote shared responsibility for maintaining healthy fisheries for future generations. Fisheries Victoria is committed to fisheries education and to promoting and supporting close and ongoing cooperation with fishers.
Fisheries Victoria education programs are often complemented by the community education activities of other organisations including VRFish and Fishcare. These organisations foster responsible fishing practice and play an important role in fisheries education.
Fisheries Victoria will continue to provide fisheries education and information to the community.
Education material is provided at all DPI Go Fishing in Victoria Family Fishing Events.
Implementation of education programs supports sustainable fishing.
Strategy 10: Enforce fishing regulations
Fisheries Victoria delivers a range of fisheries compliance services ranging from detection and apprehension of illegal fishers to providing education and information that maximises voluntary compliance.
Routine and targeted patrols provide important opportunities for communication and engagement with fishers and discourage illegal activities by providing a physical presence. Issuing penalty infringement notices is also a deterrent to illegal activities.
Patrolling is complemented by targeted investigations, including covert operations to disrupt and dismantle largescale organised crime.
DPI also operates a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, state-wide offence reporting service, 13 FISH (Phone: 13 3474), on which the public is encouraged to report suspected illegal activities.
Fisheries Victoria will, subject to available funding, continue to promote community reporting of suspected illegal fishing activities through the 13 FISH hotline.
Fisheries Victoria will continue to use information derived from fishery compliance risk assessments, 13 FISH reports and historical patrol activities to prioritise, plan and target patrols, inspections and compliance operations to achieve a high level of compliance with the Fisheries Regulations.
Compliance with the Fisheries Regulations is greater than 90 per cent.
Effective compliance programs ensure ongoing access to recreational fish species.
Outcomes of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
References and websites
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|Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts||www.environment.gov.au|
|Department of Primary Industries||www.dpi.vic.gov.au|
|Department of Sustainability and Environment||www.dse.vic.gov.au|
|Guide to Inland Angling Waters of Victoria||www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/fishing-guides/inland-angling-guide/|
|Victoria Government Gazette||www.gazette.vic.gov.au|
|Victorian Climate Change Program||www.climatechange.vic.gov.au|
|Victorian National Parks Association||www.vnpa.org.au|
|Victorian Recreational Fishing Guide||www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/fishing-guides/recreational-fishing-guide/|
|Wimmera Catchment Management Authority||www.wcma.vic.gov.au|
Appendix 1: Stakeholder and community engagement
Stage 1: Understand the Wimmera fishery
Goal: To understand community views on the Wimmera fishery
- A workshop was held with Fisheries Officers held at Horsham
- Consultation was undertaken with Aboriginal communities including Barendgi Gadjun Land Council and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative
- A series of meetings were held with key natural resource management agencies including the Fisheries Co- Management Council, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, VRFish, GWMWater, Victorian National Parks Association, Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment
- A flyer was sent to 120 stakeholders based in Wimmera informing them of how they can contribute to the development of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
- An article informing the community on how they can contribute to the development of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan was published in the:
- Fish-e-Fax (distributed to approximately 2000 stakeholders)
- Wimmera Mail Times and the Stawell Times / Ararat Advertiser newspapers
- DPI website
- Public meetings were held at Horsham and Stawell
Stage 2: Develop the Draft Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
Goal: To understand community views on the Draft Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
- Consultation was undertaken with Aboriginal communities including Barendgi Gadjun Land Council and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Co-operative
- A series of meetings were held with key natural resource management agencies including the Fisheries Co- Management Council, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, VRFish, GWMWater, Victorian National Parks Association, Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability and Environment
- A flyer was sent to 410 stakeholders based in Wimmera informing them of how they can comment on the Draft Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
- An article informing the community on how they can comment on the Draft Wimmera Fishery Management Plan was published in the:
- Fish-e-Fax (distributed to approximately 2000 stakeholders)
- Herald Sun newspaper
- DPI website
- A flyer and a copy of the Draft Wimmera Fishery Management Plan was sent to 45 stakeholders who contributed to the development of the Draft Plan
Stage 3: Declare the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
Goal: To inform the community that the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan has been declared
- A flyer was sent to stakeholders based in Wimmera informing them of how they can obtain a copy of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
- An article informing the community on how they can obtain a copy of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan was published in the:
- Fish-e-Fax (distributed to approximately 2000 stakeholders
- DPI website
- A flyer and a copy of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan was sent to stakeholders who contributed to the development of the Plan
Appendix 2: Summary of key non-fisheries legislation
A range of Commonwealth and state legislation affects fisheries management in Victoria. The following discussion is a summary of key legislation.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is administered by the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act promotes the conservation of biodiversity and provides for the identification of key threatening processes and the protection of critical habitat, listed species, protected areas and communities.
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts may make or adopt and implement recovery plans for threatened fauna, threatened flora (other than Conservation Dependent species) and ecological communities listed as threatened.
Recovery plans establish research and management actions that will support the recovery of and maximise the long term survival in the wild of listed threatened species or threatened ecological communities. These plans specify the actions needed to protect and restore important populations of threatened species and habitat, to manage and reduce threatening processes and provide a framework by which key interest groups and responsible government agencies can coordinate activities to improve the plight of threatened species and threatened ecological communities.
Of the key recreational species considered in this management plan, Murray cod is listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988
The Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act is administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and provides an administrative structure to enable and promote conservation of the state's native flora and fauna. The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act provides a range of procedures for conserving, managing or controlling flora and fauna and managing potentially threatening processes.
Under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, threatened species and communities or threatening processes may be listed and action statements prepared. Action statements for threatened species provide background information about the species including its description, distribution, habitat, life history, the reasons for its decline and the threats which affect it. They also state what has been done to conserve the species and what will be done.
Action statements are designed to apply for three to five years after which time they are reviewed and updated. Implementation of action statements is the primary responsibility of the Department of Sustainability and Environment with input from other stakeholders.
Species listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act can only be taken or kept by recreational fishers if authorised by an Order of the Governor in Council in accordance with the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. An Order of the Governor in Council specifies the species that can be taken and conditions such as gear restrictions, seasonal closures, closed waters, and size and bag limits. These conditions are reflected in the Fisheries Regulations.
Of the key recreational species considered in this management plan, Murray cod, freshwater catfish and silver perch are listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act.
The Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act is considered the most appropriate management tool for achieving optimum ecologically sustainable development outcomes for these species.
Water Act 1989
The Water Act is administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and establishes rights and obligations in relation to water resources, mechanisms for allocating water resources, governs statutory powers and functions for all water authorities outside the metropolitan area and provides for integrated management of water resources and environmental and consumer protection.
Water planning is effected through bulk water allocations and licensing processes administered under the Water Act by GWMWater.
Native Title Act 1993
Native title is the recognition in Australian law that some Aboriginal people have rights and interests to their land that come from their traditional laws and customs (NNTT 2007).
The native title rights and interests held by particular Aboriginal people will depend on their traditional laws and customs and what interests are held by others in the area concerned. Generally speaking, native title must give way to the rights held by others. The capacity of Australian law to recognise the rights and interests held under traditional law and custom will also be a factor.
Native title rights and interests may include rights to live on the area; access the area for traditional purposes, like camping or ceremonies; visit and protect important places and sites; hunt, fish and gather food or traditional resources like water, wood and ochre; and teach law and custom on country.
In some cases, native title includes the right to possess and occupy an area to the exclusion of all others including the right to control access to, and use of, the area concerned. This right can only be recognised over certain areas such as unallocated or vacant Crown land and some areas already held by, or for, Aboriginal Australians.
Native title rights and interests differ from Aboriginal land rights in that the source of land rights is a grant of title from government. The source of native title rights and interests is the system of traditional laws and customs of the native title holders themselves.
Advice on native title in the Wimmera region is available from the regional Department of Sustainability and Environment Native Title Coordinator.
Heritage Rivers Act 1992 and National Parks Act 1975
The Heritage Rivers Act 1992 and theNational Parks Act 1975 are administered by the Department of Sustainability and Environment and provide guidance for protecting biodiversity when considering translocations in inland waters. In summary, the introduction of non-native fauna is not permitted in natural catchment areas as defined in the Heritage Rivers Act or in national,, state and wilderness parks as defined in the National Parks Act and reference areas as stated in provisions under the Reference Areas Act 1978 (Victoria).
Other relevant legislation
Other Victorian legislation that is relevant to management of the Wimmera fishery includes:
- Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006
- Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
- Coastal Management Act 1995
- Environment Effects Act 1978
- Environment Protection Act 1970
- Planning and Environment Act 1987
- Water (Resource Management) Act 2005.
Victorian legislation is available at www.legislation.vic.gov.au.
Appendix 3: Fish stocked in the Wimmera fishery from 2005 to 2008
Appendix 4: Preparing the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
This fishery management plan was prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Fisheries Act. Fisheries Victoria, a division of DPI, is responsible for preparing fisheries management plans.
Peak bodies and the relevant consultative body (i.e. the Fisheries Co-management Council) that at the time were recognised in the Fisheries Act and stakeholders were invited by Fisheries Victoria to join the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan Steering Committee and to assist in its preparation. The Steering Committee also advised Fisheries Victoria on the conformance of the plan with the requirements of the Fisheries Act and responded to comments received on the draft plan.
Requirements of the Fisheries Act
The Fisheries Act requires that a fishery management plan:
- define the fishery to which the plan relates
- be consistent with the objectives of the Fisheries Act and with any Ministerial guidelines issued with respect to the preparation of the plan
- include the management objectives of the plan
- specify the management tools and other measures to be used to achieve the objectives of the plan
- include guidelines for the criteria to be used in respect of the issue of licences and permits and in respect of the renewal, variation or transfer of licences
- as far as is known, identify critical components of the ecosystem relevant to the plan and current or potential threats to those components and existing or proposed preventative measures
- specify performance indicators, targets and monitoring methods
- as far as relevant and practicable, identify in respect of the fishery, declared noxious aquatic species or fisheries reserve, the biological, ecological, social and economic factors relevant to its management including:
- its current status, human uses and economic value
- measures to minimise its impact on non-target species and the environment
- research needs and priorities
- the resources required to implement the plan.
A fishery management plan may:
- Specify the manner in which fishing capacity is to be measured and the fishing capacity so measured;
- specify the duration of the management plan
- specify the procedures or conditions for review of the plan
- include any other relevant matters.
The preparation of a fishery management plan is outlined in Part 3 of the Fisheries Act 1995. The following steps were identified for the preparation of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan:
- Fisheries Co-Management Council endorses the proposed planning process.
- Fisheries Victoria calls for nominations and appoints a steering committee, including an independent chair.
- Fisheries Victoria issues Ministerial guidelines for, or with respect to, the preparation of the management plan by notice in the Government Gazette (Appendix 5).
- Fisheries Victoria undertakes public consultation (including a public meetings) to identify values and issues.
- Fisheries Victoria, with guidance from the steering committee, prepares the draft management plan.
- Fisheries Co-management Council endorses the planning process followed for the preparation of the draft management plan.
- The Minister endorses the draft management plan for public release.
- Fisheries Victoria publishes the notice of intention to declare the management plan, including its release for public comment.
- The steering committee considers the public submissions.
- Fisheries Victoria, with guidance from the steering committee, finalises the draft management plan.
- Fisheries Co-management Council endorses the planning process followed for the preparation of the final draft management plan.
- Fisheries Victoria submits the final draft management plan to the Minister to consider its declaration.
- The Minister declares the management plan.
The initial step in preparing this fishery management plan was to understand the values and issues of the Wimmera fishery that are important to recreational fishers and other stakeholders. To achieve this outcome, the public was invited to attend either of two public meetings and or to provide written submissions to the management plan steering committee. Seventeen people in total attended these meetings and thirty-two written submissions were received.
Following the announcement by the Minister of his intention to declare this management plan, stakeholders were provided the opportunity to comment on it. The key issues identified were considered by the fishery management plan steering committee which provided a report of submissions and a response to Minister responsible for fisheries. The management plan was amended where necessary.
Membership of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan Steering Committee included:
Mr Kevin Drinkell
Mr Paul Fennell, Wimmera Catchment Management
Mr Ken Flack, VRFish
Mr Gary Harper, GWMWater
Mr Chris Harrison, Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative
Mr Sandy Hodge, Barendgi Gadjun Land Council
Mr Rob Loats, Fisheries Co-management Council
Mr Craig Murdoch, Department of Primary Industries
Mr Tom Ryan, Private Consultant representing Victorian
National Parks Association
Ms Julia Smith, Department of Primary Industries
Mr Chris Spence, VRFish
Dr Nigel Abery, Department of Primary Industries
Appendix 5: Ministerial Guidelines
Excerpt from the Government Gazette G38, 18 September 2008, page 2184
Fisheries Act 1995
Guidelines for the preparation of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan
I, Peter Appleford, as delegate of the Minister for Agriculture, pursuant to section 28(2) of the Fisheries Act 1995 (the Act), issue the following guidelines with respect to the preparation of a Fishery Management Plan for the inland Wimmera region.
- Fisheries Victoria of the Department of Primary Industries will be responsible for the preparation of the Fishery Management Plan. The plan must be consistent with the objectives of the Act.
- The Management Plan must be consistent with all existing Government legislation and Departmental policies.
- The Fisheries Co-Management Council will oversee the process for the preparation of the Wimmera Fishery Management Plan. The plan must comply with Part 3 of the Act.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan will be prepared with input from all major affected stakeholder groups, including recreational fishing interests and Indigenous interests.
- The inland Wimmera regional includes the inland waters as defined in the Act, within the Millicent Coast Basin and Wimmera River Basin as defined by the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan will identify factors, including habitat and water management issues, impacting fisheries resources.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan may identify opportunities to maintain or enhance the recreational fishing experience.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan may specify appropriate management controls with regard to recreational fishing and may recommend options to assist in managing related activities.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan will identify research and information needs to support the sustainable management of fisheries resources.
- The Wimmera Fishery Management Plan will include processes for reporting to the Victorian community on achievements of the Plan.
Dated 27 November 2007
Delegated of the responsible Minister:
DR PETER APPLEFORD Executive Director Fisheries Victoria