Anglers putting back: Our licence fees at work

Michael Burgess, Executive Officer
Victorian Recreational Fishing Peak Body

Creating a world-class Murray cod fishery in Victoria takes long-term planning and the necessary resources to reach this goal. After 15 years of work, Victorian fishers are hailing the resurgence of our cod fisheries around Northern Victoria, including the Lake Eildon trophy fishery.

Victorian fishers have made a direct financial contribution to our Murray cod fishery through our licence fees. Every time we take out a Recreational Fishing Licence (RFL), our money is held in the RFL Fishing Trust Account so that these funds can be invested directly to improve recreational fishing in Victoria.

Annually, RFL funds are redirected towards funding the Recreational Fishing Grants Program (RFGP), a contribution to the cost of fisheries enforcement and education, supporting fish stocking, sales commission to licence agents, funding VRFish and Fishcare Victoria, administration of the RFL and a contribution to Target One Million. A Recreational Fishing Grants Working Group (RFGWG) is appointed by the Minister Responsible for Fisheries to provide recommendations on funding for small, large and commissioned RFGP projects.

Since 2005/06, approximately $2.3 million of RFL funds have been invested in Murray cod management and strategic stocking projects. This total includes $800,000 to stock Lake Eildon with an additional 1 million Murray cod fingerlings and $799,500 to a Building Northern Native Fisheries project. RFL funds have contributed $4.2 million to the partial cost of the annual salmonoid and native fish stocking program since 2012/13 which has delivered 3,878,322 million cod fingerlings.

Our licence fees funded research into assessing the slot size limit as an alternative management tool to optimise our Murray cod fishery. This change has led to more large cod in the fish population to that boost natural recruitment and stock recovery, while fishers benefit from a vibrant large cod catch and release fishery and aspirations to become part of the 'metre-plus club'.

Stock enhancement has been supported by habitat restoration and enhancement in our waterways where Murray cod are present. Since 2005/06, a further $1.71 million of RFL funds have been invested into 19 habitat projects which are assessed as directly benefiting Murray cod in some way. Investing RFL funds into fish habitat continues to be the most important priority for recreational fishers.

Analysing how Victorian recreational fishers have directed contributed to our Murray cod fishery demonstrates the importance of having a strategic approach to improving our fisheries and that fishers are enabling works to occur on a continuous basis through direct financial contributions. RFL funds are also leveraging additional financial contributions and in-kind support from other organisations and funding sources.