Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes

The Victorian Fisheries Authority Policy

1. Introduction

The Victorian Fisheries Authority stocks native and salmonid fish into public waters throughout Victoria for recreational fishing purposes. This policy provides guidance in the setting of priorities for stocking of Victorian waters.

2. Background

Annual stocking plans are developed through a consultative process known as Vic Fish Stock, involving representatives from The Victorian Fisheries Authority, the Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak Body (VRFish), Water Management Authorities, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) 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.

Waters (or a section of a waterway if barriers exist to prevent movement of fish) will not be stocked when there is reasonable evidence that the fish species (native or introduced) to be stocked may constitute an unacceptable risk to an existing threatened species or community.

(e.g. listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1995 (FFG) or the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC)). This is consistent with the Guidelines for Assessing Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria (2003).

3. Scope

This policy defines the principles and criteria used by The Victorian Fisheries Authority when prioritising waters in the recreational fish stocking program. It is intended to assist The Victorian Fisheries Authority 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 does not apply to stocking for conservation purposes.

The role of The Victorian Fisheries Authority

The role of The Victorian Fisheries Authority is to manage fisheries within an ecologically sustainable development framework. Key activities include securing the resource, sharing the resource and growing the resource. In relation to managing inland recreational fish stocking, The Victorian Fisheries Authority's key roles are to:

  • Communicate, and where appropriate, consult with stakeholders;
  • Increase and quantify angler satisfaction levels;
  • Advocate for measures to preserve and improve recreational fishing opportunities;
  • Maximise the benefits from recreational stocking within a restricted budget;
  • Coordinate and invest in research to assist fisheries management decisions; and
  • Promote recreational angling as a healthy recreational activity.

Responsibility for securing the resource is shared with other agencies such as water and land management agencies and CMAs. Matters not under the control and management of The Victorian Fisheries Authority include access to water storages, allocation of water flows, habitat protection/improvements or waterway health.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority develops strategic stocking programs that:

  • Maximise the returns to recreational anglers;
  • Create public value;
  • Enhance and support natural recruitment;
  • Are consistent with the translocation protocols and guidelines;
  • Provide for equitable access for a range of stakeholders;
  • Satisfy cost-benefit analysis; and
  • Consider long-term sustainable management strategies.

Stocking is conducted in accordance with annual native and salmonid stocking plans. The stocking plans are developed utilising information from a range of sources, including advice provided by the Vic Fish Stock process.

4. Definitions

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 considering any restrictions such as fishing methods, areas and methods of entry and times.
  • Angler popularity - An assessment of how important the water is considered in both local and regional context, not necessarily based purely on numbers of visitors but how highly it is valued by anglers.
  • Authority to Stock - approval from the relevant resource manager to allow translocation of fish to a particular water body.
  • 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 rainbow trout 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 -30g-100g, natives ->200g) advanced (100 - 200g) and ex-broodstock (>1000g)
  • Inland fishery - one conducted in inland waters. Inland waters, as defined in the Fisheries Act, 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 particular waters capacity to produce and sustain healthy populations of fish.
  • Salmonids - In this document, only refers to rainbow trout, brown trout and chinook salmon.
  • Self-Sustaining populations - populations of either native or salmonids that are able to successfully support an active fishery under average environmental conditions.
  • Stocking - is a subset of translocation and refers only to the release of hatchery-reared fish.
  • Suitable receiving waters - those waters with sufficient angler access where the habitat is suitable for sustaining fish populations and where water quality and quantity is sufficient 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 Translocations of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria' relevant to stocking.

5. Principles for Stocking of Waters to Enhance Recreational Fisheries

Waters will be considered for stocking with native or salmonid fish species where all of the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. Authority to stock has been provided by the relevant resource manager;
  2. Suitable receiving waters exist for species to be stocked;
  3. Stock assessments determine self-sustaining populations do not exist or should be augmented for recreational fishing purposes;
  4. The translocation is in accordance with translocation guidelines, including relevant policies;
  5. The increased public value outweighs the cost of stocking as evidenced 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. Water levels will be assessed as 'permanent', 'mostly permanent', 'intermittent' and 'unreliable'. Stocking will not be considered for 'unreliable' waters.

Proposals to stock in 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 for stocking of waters have been satisfied, The Victorian Fisheries Authority will then prioritise a potential stocking water according to its social value and economic return. Premier waters, 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 Victorian Fisheries Authority annual stocking plan. The priority for stocking other potential waters is determined by the 'Criteria for Prioritisation of Waters for Stocking'.

Criteria for Prioritisation of Waters for Stocking

The criteria that will be used to prioritise waters for stocking, in order, are:

  1. Productivity of the water;
  2. Angler popularity and usage;
  3. Proximity to similar angling opportunities;
  4. Level of angler access.

In circumstances where the quantity or size of fish available for stocking falls below that specified in the annual stocking plan (eg through the impacts of drought on fish production), The Victorian Fisheries Authority reserves the right to allocate the available stock to ensure that:

  1. Enough fish are stocked into a particular water to provide a reasonable return to the angler; and
  2. An equitable distribution of available fish is achieved across waters (this may include regional equity).

Adaptive Management

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 will be made prior to each liberation event so that the principles and criteria for stocking continue to be met. The Victorian Fisheries Authority reserves the right to vary the stocking regime accordingly.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority also reserves the right to decide what fish species are to be stocked in specific waters and the size those fish are to be when released, based on suitable receiving waters. Where appropriate, consultation with stakeholders will occur prior to this decision being made. In the event that insufficient fish are available from The Victorian Fisheries Authority hatcheries, additional fish may be sourced from private or interstate hatcheries, subject to meeting translocation policies.

Decommissioning

Once notification from the relevant water authority has been received by The Victorian Fisheries Authority of an intended decommissioning of a water body, further stocking will be investigated and reviewed after future water management regimes have been clearly identified

6. Policy Related Documents

  • Fisheries Victoria Report Series Regional Fisheries Consultations Meeting Outcomes (annual)
  • 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 1998
  • The Victorian Fisheries Authority policy Responding to the Impacts of Drought and its Consequences on Inland Recreational Fisheries