Chairmans Summary #35

Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable Forum #35

Forum date: Friday June 13th 2014
Location: The Victorian Fisheries Authority, 1 Spring St, Melbourne

Chair's Summary

The key items discussed at the 35th Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable Forum were:

  • Willow tree removal.
  • Goughs Bay boat ramps.
  • Brooks Cutting – River access
  • Recreational Fishing Licence review.
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna.
  • Lake Bullen Merri access.
  • Murray cod slot limits.
  • Box Creek – Kow Swamp
  • Development of a river trout response plan.
  • River water flows
  • NSW Angler Access program.
  • Recreational Fishing Improvements Program update.
  • DEPI Freshwater Ecosystems update.
1. Previous Forum actions follow up:

Willow Tree Removal

Rod Barford provided concerning past photos to Brian Mottram. Brian has followed up with Goulburn Broken CMA. More recent photos show revegetation and the area recovering well, with trees only 3-4 years old but with the potential for a good result in the longer term and provision of shade close to the river. Brian to provide a copy of these photos to Rod. Bill Sykes clarified that the North East CMA and Goulburn Broken CMA are following the same processes to engage land holders. Brian informed members of another area that has been badly touched by the fires and confirmed this has not been the work of Goulburn Broken CMA. Anthony Forster confirmed  there is excellent communication and cooperation between the rec fishing and the CMAs. Anthony has met with nine CMA's and from 8/9 of those meetings, willows were a contentious issue. The local CMAs have acknowledged they will engage fishers directly into the future and are changing their processes.

Goughs Bay boat ramps

The Victorian Fisheries Authority have spoken with the Mansfield Shire who are interested in getting floating pontoons. Mansfield Shire have indicated they will submit an application to get funds to complete this task. Really positive feedback. 

Brooks Cutting river access

Brian has commenced investigations into this complex issue and has spoken with Bill Sykes. The road is positioned on private property. Discussions and works to be done in consultation with the Murrindindi Shire. Brian will follow up directly with Rod Barford

2. The Victorian Fisheries Authority Executive Director's activity report:

The Victorian Fisheries Authority Executive Director, Ross McGowan, provided an update of current projects and activities including:

Recreational Fishing Licence Review

The RFL Licence review package was provided to the Minister. The Minister wrote to the stakeholder reference  group regarding his concern of the potential impact that the recommendations might have on pensioners. The RFL Licence review remains a priority with a new timeline of July 2015. Ross acknowledged it is a great piece of work and the Minister is comfortable and thankful for the work conducted by reference Group.

Southern Bluefin Tuna

There has been media commentary as far east as Apollo Bay regarding successful Southern Bluefin tuna (SBT) fishing. Whilst this is positive there are major concerns of people not abiding by the regulations and concerns regarding the types of vessels people are using. Ross noted that Marine Safety have been present at Portland ensuring that boats are correctly equipped.

There was much discussion about the complex SBT bag limits and take on an Australian and worldwide basis. This is a very complex area that we (Victoria) need to carefully manage into the future.

3. Inland Fisheries Managers' Report:

Anthony Forster, Manager, Freshwater Fisheries provided an update of current inland projects and activities including:

Lake Bullen Merri Access

Anthony advised he has been working  with landholders to negotiate on a draft public indemnity agreement similar to the previous agreement. At this stage the landholders are not prepared to consider the draft agreement. As a result, Anthony felt it is unlikely that improved access will be provided in the short term. South West Regional DEPI group are planning to prepare a Management Plan for Lake Bullen Merri which may address access, infrastructure and other management issues at the lake. Current access is through the south and north beach only.

Murray cod slot size limits

Murray cod size limits are being reviewed using fish population modelling. Our science tells us a slot limit of 50–70cm will substantially improve the outcome for Murray cod. Benefits include bigger fish being protected, more fish being available and breeding potential increased. A 60 day public consultation will commence on 1 July to enable recreational fishers to understand the science which is new and innovative. A public forum will be held in Bendigo on 6 August 2014.

Box Creek – Kow Swamp

Goulburn Broken CMA are undertaking a major works to improve their irrigation infrastructure at Box Creek which flows out of Kow Swap. This has overshadowed our attempts to build a boat ramp as proposed under the Building Northern Native Fisheries project. In-principal support has recently been received by Goulburn Broken CMA Anthony will now approach relevant agencies to prepare a proposal to improve boat ramps and infrastructure with community support.

Development of the NE river's trout recovery response plan:

  • In response to reports of poor wild trout fishing in north-east Victoria, The Victorian Fisheries Authority undertook a wild trout snapshot survey in February in four rivers: King, Howqua, Jamieson and Upper Goulburn.
  • Key results showed the trend (numbers & trout size) showed abundance in lower reaches was historically low.
  • Suggested theories about the cause of the problem include high water temperature / low flows (lower reaches), overfishing, changes to riparian shading, habitat degradation, failed wild trout breeding, predation (e.g. cormorants) or competition from other species – mainly carp.
  • Merv questioned the costs associated with, and the potential to obtain funding for, electrofishing to reduce carp if they are the major problem. Jarod Lyon has done previous research and reports that carp are big and mobile and the cost benefits are not worthwhile.
  • Consultation has commenced. On 3 April the Trout reference group met for the first time in Snobs Creek. On 10 April a public meeting was held in Mansfield and was well attended. On 4 June Anthony Forster met with the Mansfield delegate.
  • Anthony advised a trout reference group meeting is scheduled for 20 June. Project methodology & costing's to be finalised by the end of June. A RFL application will be prepared and in mid-July a presentation to the RFL Grants Working Group. If funded the research will commence in Spring 2014.
  • If funded, a yearly seminar will be held bringing in a wide variety of people to share the experience, build and invest in awareness and encourage involvement of recreational fishers.

River water flows

  • Don Ellis provided feedback regarding the significant effect of water flows ranging from 2500 mega litres per day rapidly dropping to approximately 500 mega litres per day. Anglers are upset with the changing water flows. Anthony confirmed he has heard the same feedback. It was noted that river levels are profoundly impacted by demand for agricultural irrigation supply.
  • Jarod informed members that there is a study being conducted at the moment regarding environmental flows and highlighted the need to identify the reasoning for specific levels of water flows being a benefit to a particular species of fish rather than for social reasons (eg. Fishing).
  • Bill Sykes discussed the issues of river flows being quite complex and takes into account many factors. For example, irrigation requirements during the months of August to May, electricity generation, what is adequate minimal environmental flows, and water temperatures (a further example was an incident in Eildon 3-4 years prior). Bill informed members of an incident which occurred last week where a major surge of water was let out of Dartmouth to generate electricity. Similar incidents apply in upper regions of Eildon therefore creating competing demands. In the case of AGL, they may receive a demand with only 30 minutes notice – all agreed better communication needs to occur in these instances. Bill spoke with AGL last week and the issues were addressed at a meeting on ways to improve outcomes for next time. Jarod Lyon's research project is expected to finish in October with a report to be released.
4. Alistair McBurnie - NSW Rec Fisheries Manager, Angler Access               

Fisheries NSW Rec Fisheries Access Manager Alistair McBurnie presented their access program.

  • Alistair was invited to give a presentation on the NSW Angler Access Project. Alistair has been working in access for approximately 6 years, sharing similar experiences to Victorian counterparts.
  • NSW angling groups identified a lack of identification, loss or obstruction of access being a major issue that limits fishing activities.
  • Alistair provided a social and economic overview which identified: a) Recreational fishing is a legitimate pastime that has significant social and economic benefits for individuals and the broader community, b) there are over 1 million recreational fishers in NSW and it accounts for 40% of nature based recreation in NSW (44% in western NSW), c) Recreational fishing is valued at $1.5 Billion per annum in the MDBA alone, d) recreational fishing was valued at over $100 million per annum in the Snowy lakes region, and e) significant health and wellbeing benefits have been attributed to recreational fishing.
  • A spatial analysis was conducted.
  • There are 200,000 legal access points that lead to waterways within inland NSW
  • Sites are identified and evaluated using a grading system. 1 = excellent. 2 = unsure and needs inspection. 3 = no interest. 4 = blockage. The aim is to cater and provide for anglers of all abilities.
  • Alistair discussed an evaluation of the Victorian Nariel Creek.
  • The trust funded NSW Angler Access project aims to identify and protect essential access locations in perpetuity for current users and future generations. In inland NSW, there are hundreds of thousands of locations where rivers, streams and lakes that can be accessed by Public Land. On average, in NSW only 1 in 4 of these access sites are in use. Alistair explained it is his role to identify and secure these locations (where practical) across the state.
  • Fisheries NSW and anglers (with fishing funds) are working with landholders, local communities to repair roads, remove weeds, build new fences and install fence stiles to enhance access.
  • Fisheries NSW plan to provide the locations of inspected access online. This is currently on hold until a Track Assessment Accreditation has been completed.
  • Alistair identified that the program has been running for 5-6 years. During that time thousands of access points have been found. Alistair explained it is difficult to quantify how many access points there are as they are firstly trying to protect the existing access points before identifying ways of further enhancing them.
  • Tom Camp questioned whether the annual fee charged by Parks provides any funding to the NSW Angler Access project. Alistair confirmed it does not.
5. Brian Mottram – Manager Recreational Fishing Improvements:
  • Brian provided an update of the Recreational Fishing Initiative project.
  • The RFI is at the end of the third year and Brian highlighted it is making a difference to communities.
  • Projects include:
    • 40 projects funded installing new and upgrading existing boat launching facilities.
    • 40 projects funded to improve access and facilities. Brian commented he has seen first-hand the benefits of the RFI – in particular, the local aged care facility can take members down to an improved community infrastructure.
    • 10 fish cleaning tables. A limit to the fish cleaning tables is that they can be messy, smelly and some Councils do object to them.
    • 8 projects removing in stream barriers and installing fish ladders.
    • Improving fish movement and migration.
    • Recreational fish stocking program. Brian highlighted there has been great survival rates post floods (3-4 years). Native fish are being caught in many waters and fishers have reported catching 1.5 kg chinook salmon in south-west Crater Lakes. Trout stocking is well underway as previously reported by Anthony Forster.
    • Estuarine recreational fishing reefs. 7 reefs have been installed with the 8th to be installed within the next 10 days. Ron Lewis questioned if there is any intent to seed the artificial reefs with mussels or growths of any sort? Brian indicated the current artificial reefs have colonised really well and therefore there hasn't been the need to seed them.
    • Offshore recreational fishing reef – combined RFL and RFI funding of $1.2 million. These structures are 4 metres square weighing 17 tonnes each. It involves a large logistical effort to get these reefs into the water. Clusters of 5 reefs are planned for Torquay in 20-25 metres of water.
    • Regional Roundtable Forums. Forums are being held at 10 locations. Brian tabled a handout detailing the locations (Melbourne, Mornington, Greensborough, Torquay, Ballarat, Bendigo, Warrnambool, Lakes Entrance, Wodonga and Nagambie. For more information about dates, times and venues visit http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/recreational-fishing/recreational-fishing-initiative/recreational-forums-2014.
    • Conduct priority research and development for recreational fishing. For example, site selection, contributed to the study of economic benefit of southern bluefin tuna, fish stock surveys, Murray cod slot limits, north eastern trout surveys and fish stocking evaluation.
    • The Victorian Fisheries Authority Smartphone App. The App is being well received with well over 90,000 subscribers and continually increasing.
    • Recreational fishing communications products. For example fish length rulers, Recreational Fishing Guide, ability to respond quickly to changes (spiny freshwater crayfish).
    • Strengthening fisheries compliance – ability to cover peak time operations with additional funds.
  • Don Ellis advised he constantly receives feedback from surf anglers that the facilities are not high quality and that they do not have fish cleaning tables. Brian indicated fish cleaning tables are near boat ramps for high use areas. These tables require water and a means to be able to dispose of the product which is challenging in remote areas. Brian would like specific information regarding particular areas to determine whether it is possible and who to speak to (eg. Shire etc). Don was encouraged to direct those anglers who have complaints to attend the relevant regional forums to address their particular concerns and opportunities for improvements.
  • Merv McGuire questioned if the current Government is to continue the RFI would the Minister announce it prior to the election. Bill Sykes confirmed yes. Bill also encouraged members to submit positive feedback about the good work RFI has and is achieving, rather than just what the future looks like. Election commitments will be announced within the next two to three months.
  • Ross Winstanley questioned what work has been done regarding improving access and facilities at Dartmouth Pondage? Bill Sykes indicated there was a meeting held last Thursday with AGL. In summary AGL will not accept the public liability. AGL has been requested to identify the risks that they foresee and fishers need to put a proposal for what they consider a managed access. Bill Sykes and Brian Mottram are discussing the potential of the Government being responsible for the liability.
  • Brian finished his presentation by informing all members of the Goulburn Fishing Festival being held in Eildon 5-6 September 2014 in conjunction with trout season opening. For more information about this event visit http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/fishing-and-hunting/recreational-fishing/recreational-fishing-initiative/goulburn-fishing-festival-2014.
6. Roundtable Chairman:  Roundtable Discussions

Jarod Lyon: DEPI Freshwater Ecosystems reported the following

  • DEPI has been a combined department for 12 months now. It's positive to see DPI, DSE and CMAs are all working together now.
  • The Regional Waterways Strategy is being finalised. This Strategy identifies how money gets spent amongst the CMAs and what has been done.
  • Coastal CMAs are engaging anglers in restoration.
  • Fishways – a workshop was held a few weeks ago to set an agenda for Fishways management over the next few years. The first priority is to look over the past 10 years and determine if fish structures are working.
  • Working with Anthony's team regarding trout research for the NE rivers.
  • Project is underway regarding carp modelling and use of environmental water.
  • North Central CMA have a Fish Restoration Plan that they have presented to VRFish – VRFish support this Plan.
  • Lots of work being undertaken regarding environmental flow planning.

Ross Winstanley addressed the Forum re the RFL

  • Ross reminded members in September 2013 a proposal was submitted to Ross McGowan, for forwarding to the Minister, expressing concerns about aspects of the Recreational Fishing Licence. Three aspects being 1) cost shifting to the licence trust account, 2) that the cost review has occurred with no form of governance and input from recreational fishing licence holders, and 3) the cost burden of government services paid for by the licence. Ross Winstanley acted in accordance with Ross McGowan's request that the concerns be put in writing through his office.
  • Members can see benefits of the cost review and the use of this additional money.
  • As a member of the Ministers Fisheries Advisory Council Ross has written a not yet submitted four page submission on the Recreational Fishing Licence regarding how the new structure can be a benefit. Ross will raise these aspects with the Council at its next meeting in August. Ross confirmed he is not acting on behalf of the Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable, he is responding to problems that the FAC have identified and providing potential solutions.
  • Ross questioned members as a group, what does the Roundtable want to do about this issue previously raised with Ross. Members requested that the matter be pursued. Doug Braham surveyed his Group and of the 40 people who are exempt from a licence 38 do not buy a licence because they do not have to however they do not object to purchasing one.
  • Bill Sykes sought clarification on what proportion of non-licence holding fishers are in Clubs. Anthony Forster believes approximately 25-30%. Robert Krix had previously provided an estimate that there are 75,000 adult recreational fishers exempt.
  • Bill mentioned to engage in this cost review process the Government needs time to discuss the debate without the interruption of an election. Luke Cromie agreed and indicated next year is the suitable time to revisit this issue and in particular the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS). This gives DEPI then time to consider this discussion, the role of the working group and how the money is spent.
  • Brian Hayes requested transparency and clear guidelines to identify what the extra money is going to be used for.
  • Bill confirmed he provided feedback to the Minister after the last meeting.
  • Bill responded to the question of where to from here by informing members the issue is in a holding pattern but implementation will continue post-election.
  • Brian addressed the members concerns regarding transparency of the RFL Working Group. The RFL Working Group must report to Parliament each year regarding what is spent and how and they have strict expenditure guidelines they must adhere to.

Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable #35.

Chair:                       Merv McGuire                                                                                     
Secretariat:              Emma Young

Summary Dated:      25/07/2014

Next Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable Forum #36 – Scheduled September 12th 2014.