Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes
Victorian Fisheries Authority
This policy provides guidance in setting priorities for stocking of Victorian waters.
The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) stocks native and salmonid fish species into public waters throughout Victoria for recreational fishing purposes and to recover threatened species.
The State Government has committed to the development of recreational fisheries through its Target One Million (TOM) policy, which aims to ‘get more people fishing more often’. Consistent with the TOM policy, the VFA will actively seek opportunities to stock fish to improve recreational fishing and increase fishing participation. In relation to fish stocking, TOM commits to increasing fish stocking from the previous baseline of 5 million fish per year to 10 million by 2022. This includes a focus on stocking native fish in specified urban waters and the stocking of Eastern King Prawns in Lake Tyers. The VFA’s fish stocking priorities are also informed by the Snobs Creek Advisory Board’s stocking strategy Revolutionising Inland Fish Production and Stocking in Victoria, which sets targets for fish stocking for both recreational and conservation purposes.
Annual stocking plans are developed through a consultative process known as Vic Fish Stock, which involves representatives from the VFA, the Victorian Recreational Fishing Representative Body (VRFish), Water Management Authorities, Catchment Management Authorities and other relevant stakeholders. The Vic Fish Stock process nominates waters to be stocked, species composition, numbers, size, timing and priority for each water. Actual numbers of fish stocked may vary from those nominated in response to environmental or other factors.
The decision to stock will consider the risk of stocked fish impacting on threatened species, e.g. listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG) or the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). This is consistent with the Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Organisms in Victoria (2003).
This policy defines the principles and criteria used by the VFA in determining where fish are stocked and the key drivers and considerations that inform stocking. It is intended to assist the VFA to respond to changes in environmental conditions such as water quality and quantity, drought and bushfires, altered management practices by water and land managers and changing stakeholder values and expectations.
This policy applies to stocking in all Victorian waters.
This policy applies to stocking for recreational fishing and conservation purposes.
The role of the Victorian Fisheries Authority
The VFA was created on 1 July 2017 by establishing the then Fisheries Victoria as a statutory authority under the Victorian Fisheries Authority Act 2016 (the Act).
As a statutory authority, the VFA is responsible for managing Victoria’s fisheries resources in a coordinated and strategic way that ensures their ongoing sustainability. The VFA’s function is to ensure that the Government, Victorian fishing sectors and general community obtain the benefits of careful management to ensure demand can be sustainably supported into the future. This is achieved by matching demand to fish stocking and infrastructure, while providing up-to-date information on resource condition and supporting regulatory requirements.
The VFA’s key roles in relation to managing fish stocking are to:
- Communicate, and where appropriate, consult with stakeholders
- Increase angler satisfaction levels
- Advocate for measures to preserve and improve recreational fishing opportunities
- Maximise the benefits from recreational stocking within a defined budget
- Coordinate and invest in research to assist fisheries management decision making
- Promote recreational angling as a healthy recreational activity.
The VFA shares responsibility for resource management with other agencies including both water and land management agencies. Matters not under the VFA’s direct span of control include allocation of water flows, habitat protection/improvement and waterway health.
The VFA develops strategic stocking programs that:
- Maximise the returns to recreational anglers
- Create public value
- Enhance and support natural populations and natural recruitment
- Are consistent with the translocation protocols and guidelines
- Provide equitable access for a range of stakeholders
- Consider long-term sustainable management strategies
- Assist with the recovery of threatened native fish.
Stocking is undertaken in accordance with annual native and salmonid stocking plans. The stocking plans are developed utilising information from a range of sources, including advice provided through the Vic Fish Stock process.
For the purposes of this policy, the following terms are defined:
- Angler access – general authorisation by the water and/or land manager to allow fishing activities taking into consideration any restrictions such as fishing methods, areas and method of entry and times
- Angler popularity – an assessment of how important the water is in both local and regional context, not necessarily based purely on numbers of visitors but how highly it is valued by anglers
- Vic Fish Stock – Regional fisheries consultation meetings held annually that determine annual stocking plans and nominate stock assessments to be undertaken
- Conservation purposes – a need to maintain or enhance populations of threatened or endangered species through stock enhancement
- Endemic species – species unique to a defined place or region
- Family fishing lake – small lake, impoundment or retarding basin generally less than 3 ha in area. These waters are stocked with catchable size fish prior to second and/or third term school holidays or fishing week events to provide angling opportunities for junior anglers, families and people with limited mobility
- Fish sizes – fry (<5g); fingerlings (5-30g); yearlings (trout 30-100g, natives >200g); advanced (100-200g) and ex-brood stock (>1000g)
- Inland fishery – one conducted in inland waters. Inland waters, as defined in the Fisheries Act 1995, include all waterways, public dams, swamps, billabongs and lakes other than the Gippsland Lakes, Lake Tyers, Mallacoota Lake and Wingan Inlet. It does not include any water or waters on private property
- Location infrastructure – describes the location’s capacity to cater for a variety of fishing methods and abilities, and the facilities available i.e. boat ramps, fishing platforms, all-purpose access, toilets, liberation truck access, etc
- Native species – fish species that naturally occurs within Victoria
- Productivity – refers to a water’s capacity to produce and sustain healthy populations of fish
- Salmonids – for this policy, refers only to rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, chinook salmon and relevant hybrid salmonid varieties
- Self-sustaining populations – populations of either native or salmonid fish that naturally reproduce
- Stocking – is a subset of translocation and refers only to the release of hatchery-reared fish
- Suitable receiving waters – those waters with enough angler access where the habitat is suitable for sustaining fish populations and where water quality and quantity are enough to allow the stocked fish to enter the fishery
- Translocation – the deliberate human-assisted movement of wild fish or hatchery reared fish from one location to another
- Translocation protocols – protocols prepared under the ‘Guidelines for Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria’ relevant to stocking.
Principles for Stocking of Waters to Enhance Inland Fisheries
Waters will be considered for stocking with native or salmonid fish species where all the following conditions are satisfied:
- Suitable receiving waters exist for species to be stocked
- Self-sustaining populations do not exist or should be augmented for recreational fishing purposes
- The translocation is in accordance with translocation guidelines, including relevant policies
- The increased public value outweighs the cost of stocking through angler visitation, demand and return to anglers.
A key component of the suitability of receiving waters is the likelihood that water levels will be appropriate for angling. Stocking will not be considered for waters with unreliable water security.
Proposals to stock any water other than those stocked since 1995 or with any non-native species other than Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Chinook Salmon will need to comply with the Translocation Guidelines.
Once the principles of stocking of waters have been satisfied, the VFA will then consider a potential stocking water according to its social value and economic return. Family fishing lakes and those waters specified in Government commitments are deemed to hold high social and economic values and will be given priority in determining the VFA’s annual stocking plan.
Key considerations for stocking waters
- Productivity of the water
- Angler popularity and usage
- Proximity to similar angling opportunities
- Level of angler access
- The need to recover native fish.
Decisions to stock waters are made in a complex and changing system. To ensure that the social and economic return from stocking is maximised, assessments of water suitability will be made prior to liberation events. The VFA reserves the right to vary the stocking regime accordingly.
The VFA also reserves the right to decide what fish species are to be stocked in specific waters and the size of those fish will be when released, based on suitable receiving waters. Where appropriate, consultation with stakeholders will occur prior to this decision being made. Fish will be sourced from VFA hatcheries or contracted private hatcheries, subject to meeting translocation policies
- Target One Million policy
- Annual Vic Fish Stock reports
- Snobs Creek Advisory Board’s stocking strategy: Revolutionising Inland Fish Production and Stocking in Victoria
- Protocols for the Translocation of Fish in Victorian Inland Public Waters
- Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria
- Fisheries Act 1995
- Fisheries Regulations 2019.