Responding to the Impact of Drought and its Consequences on Inland Recreational Fisheries
The Victorian Fisheries Authority Policy
The Victorian inland recreational fisheries face significant pressures due to ongoing drought conditions. This policy provides guidance for The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) in responding to the impacts of prolonged periods of drought such as significantly reduced water quantity, quality and flow.
Water resources have become the major issue across the State after a 10-year run of dry seasons with the last wet period ending September 1996. Victoria is presently experiencing the lowest stream flows in recorded history.
During periods of drought, the inland recreational fisheries face significant pressures. Extended periods of drought may result in:
- Mass fish death,
- Long or short term loss of carrying capacity of water bodies (this may be natural or as a result of a water management decision),
- Concentration of fish in small bodies of water – making them easier to harvest, including illegal capture and,
- Species composition changes.
The VFA stocks some water bodies that are also used to supply town water (potable) and or for general domestic and stock use. There is concern that the increased risk of a fish death due to drought conditions could result in future limitations on stocking and angler access.
This document provides policy guidance to the VFA fisheries staff on the management of fisheries during drought, and in responding to the impacts of reduced water quantity, quality and flow.
Roles and responsibilities
Within the VFA, The Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) has responsibility for managing the fisheries resource. The VFA manages fisheries within an ecologically sustainable development framework. Key activities include securing the resource, sharing the resource and growing the value of the resource. The VFA stocks inland native and salmonid fisheries to improve the recreational fishing experience. The VFA is also the principal authorising agency for fish translocation within Victoria.
In managing fisheries during drought conditions and where water quantity, quality and flows may be reduced, the key roles of the VFA are to:
- Advocate for measures to preserve, and if possible, improve recreational fishing opportunities (refer to VFA policy: Fisheries Advocacy Strategy July 2006 – June 2010)
- Manage fish stocking for recreational purposes (refer to VFA policy: Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes)
- Provide advice on fisheries resources related matters
- Administer fisheries legislation
- Implement fisheries policies and programs
- Communicate with the Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak Body (VRFish) and other affected stakeholders and consult as appropriate.
Responsibility for securing the resource is shared with other agencies such as the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The VFA has statutory responsibility for management of water quality and for Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1995 listed fish species, as well as threats to those populations (ie water, habitat change), both directly and indirectly through Catchment Management Authorities, and Urban and Rural Water Authorities (referred to in this policy as 'Water Managers'). Water Managers are responsible for determining access to water storages for stocking and for the allocation of water flows and waterway health.
Significant fish deaths may occur in drought affected waters. The EPA is the control agency responsible for the 'Waterway Incident (fish death) Response Guidelines'. The VFA has endorsed these Guidelines and has a role with regard to notification, attendance, support, and communication with affected stakeholders. The VFA will become the control agency in the event that fish disease is shown to be the cause of the fish death incident. Risks to human health are the responsibility of the Department of Human Services.
- Advocacy – describes the activity of providing information and exercising persuasion to influence outcomes in favour of fisheries
- Drought – water supply droughts are a combination of meteorological, hydrological
- (i.e. streamflow and groundwater resources) and storage water deficiencies
- EBFM – ecosystem-based fisheries management promotes the use of fisheries resources in a manner that does not jeopardise the benefits and opportunities for future generations. Applying an EBFM approach allows the VFA to plan, develop and manage fisheries in a way that recognises the broader context in which fisheries operate, including the abiotic, biotic and human components of ecosystems
- Inland fishery –inland fisheries includes fisheries on public land that contain one of more freshwater species that can be legally fished – it does not include estuarine species
- Suitable Receiving Waters – those waters 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
- Stocking – the deliberate movement of fish to augment wild fish stocks or establish new fish stocks
- Translocation – is the deliberate movement of aquatic biota (including fish) from one location to another
- Water Managers – Catchment Management Authorities and Urban and Rural Water Authorities
5. Policy Principles
Ecosystems-based fisheries management (EBFM)
Fundamental to EBFM is a commitment to adaptive management. This means that management of human and other activities is modified in response to the performance of fishing and ecosystem indicators, which show the effectiveness of current management arrangements. Management arrangements are also modified in response to improved knowledge, changes in societal values and technological developments. The principles of EBFM provide a framework for managing fisheries and should be applied in responding to the impacts of drought.
The VFA EBFM Policy Principles are:
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority will manage access to fisheries resources in a way that maintains them for future generations
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority will manage fisheries resources to minimise the risk of unacceptable impacts on the ecosystem (measured as the impact on target species, by-product, by-catch, protected species, habitats and communities)
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority will apply a risk-based, precautionary approach to fisheries management where there is uncertainty
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority maintains that the 'right to fish' carries with it an obligation to act in a responsible and law-abiding manner towards the resource and the ecosystem that supports it
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority maintains that non-fisheries activities that impact on the aquatic ecosystem should be managed to minimise adverse impacts on fisheries
- The Victorian Fisheries Authority will adapt management responses to account for environmental impacts such as climate change and marine pest incursions.
Refer to The Victorian Fisheries Authority Ecosystems-based Fisheries Management: A Policy Statement July 2007 – June 2010).
An EBFM approach recognises that the appropriate response will vary according to the circumstances specific to the fishery and the appropriateness and effectiveness of mitigation measures.
6. Mitigation Measures
The following gives guidance on mitigation measures.
|Measure||Description||Related Documents||Management Guideline|
|Minimise the risk of mass fish deaths in stocked fisheries||VFA will manage stocking in accordance with the VFA policy: Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes||VFA policy: Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes Victorian Guidelines for Assessing Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria and associated protocols|
The VFA will apply environmental criteria to identify waters suitable for stocking in accordance with the Inland Fisheries process for prioritising waters
The Annual Regional Consultative Meetings will seek input from stakeholders
|Advocate for water management regimes that support the capability of drought affected water bodies to sustain existing fisheries||The VFA will advocate for water management regimes that maintain or improve the condition of water bodies in relation to fishery requirements||VFA policy: Fisheries Advocacy Strategy|
The VFA will recognise that water management decisions to protect the health and safety of people and domestic stock will take precedence over the maintenance of fisheries
The VFA will give priority to inland native fish recreational fisheries
|Facilitate processes or provide authorisations to reduce fish biomass||The VFA will facilitate biomass reduction processes on receipt and approval of a formal request from the relevant Water Manager to the Executive Director VFA||Nil|
The VFA will:
|Assist in the conduct of fish salvage operations||The VFA will consider issuing permits if the fish salvage activity is supported by the Translocation Evaluation Panel The VFA will assist an authorised fish salvage operation on approval from the Executive Director and on a full cost recovery basis||Victorian Guidelines for Assessing Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria and associated protocols|
The VFA will not instigate fish salvage operations
The VFA will consider the provision of assistance on a full cost recovery basis where the proposed fish salvage operation is:
The VFA will only assist where there is no significant impact on its core operational activities and services
|Support the nominated lead agency in fish death response||The VFA will support an authorised 'fish death' response operation on approval from the Executive Director and on a cost recovery basis||EPA Waterway Incident (Fish Death) Response Guidelines||Should a significant fish death occur, the VFA will respond to requests for support from the nominated lead agency in accordance with the EPA Waterway Incident (Fish Death) Response Guidelines on a cost recovery basis|
Advise on the implications of aeration proposals
|The VFA will, on request, advise the relevant agency on fisheries issues related to an aeration proposal||Nil|
Water quality is to be maintained by the Water Manager
The VFA will not instigate or fund aeration operations in any circumstances. The VFA will not install, maintain or operate aeration equipment
|Enact legislative measures to improve inland recreational fisheries or supportive habitats||The VFA may consider temporary adjustments to fisheries regulations (e.g. through Fisheries Notices)||Nil|
The VFA will seek long term legislative protection for critical habitats that support inland recreational fisheries
It must be demonstrated that any proposed adjustments will provide additional protection to inland recreational fisheries
|Lead processes to reestablish inland recreational fisheries affected by drought||The VFA will identify recovery measures for fisheries that it intends to actively manage into the future|
Victorian Guidelines for Assessing Translocation of Live Aquatic
Organisms in Victoria and associated protocols VFA policy: Fish Stocking for Recreational Fisheries
The VFA will consider projections of the future physical condition of water bodies in stocking related strategic planning
The Annual Regional Consultative Meetings will seek input from relevant water management agencies and stakeholders
|Who||Tasks||Notes / Details|
|Director Fisheries Management|
|Director Policy and Licensing|
|Director Field Services|
|Inland Fisheries Manager|
|Senior Fisheries Management Officers/ Fisheries Management Officers|
8. Policy Related Documents
VFA: Our Water Our Future
EPA: Waterway Incident (fish death) Response Guidelines
VFA: Guidelines for Assessing Translocation of Live Aquatic Organisms in Victoria
VFA: Protocols for the Translocation of Fish in Victorian Inland Public Waters
VFA: Fish Stocking for Recreational Purposes
VFA: Fisheries Advocacy Strategy July 2006 – June 2010