Wimmera Fishery Management Plan

Fisheries Victoria Management Report Series No. 68

November 2009

ISSN 1448-1693
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.

Executive summary

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.

Introduction

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.

Map of the Wimmera fishery. CMA = Catchment Management Authority

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.

Recreational fishing

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/.

Drought

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:

  • Rivers
  • Lakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Salmonid regulations

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).

Fisheries Victoria vision of success

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 stewardship

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.

Customary fishing

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 government

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 drai