Chairman's Summary #40

Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable Forum #40

Forum date: Friday September 11 2015
Location: Fisheries Victoria, 8 Nicholson St., East Melbourne.

Chair's Summary

Key discussion items from state-wide roundtable meeting #40

  • Towards achieving Target One Million.
  • Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) summary.
  • Update on the Mt Unicorn mine development.
  • The Victorian Fisheries Authority Executive Director update and progress report.
  • Update on progress of establishment of Fisheries Statutory Authority.
  • Introducing Craig Ingram, Target One Million Special Coordinator.
  • Fishcare update of current activities.
  • VRFish current activity update.
  • Update on Port Phillip Bay commercial netting buy-outs.
  • Introducing Kirsten Shelly, Senior Advisor for Minister Neville.
  • Recruitment surveys: Replenishment of our key fisheries - Flathead, snapper, King George whiting and black bream.
  • Media & Communications update.
  • Freshwater and additional Target One Million progress update.

Towards achieving Target One Million - Tom Camp

Tom Camp advised that a meeting was scheduled for next week (14/09) with FV, VRFish, We Fish, and Native Fish Australia to discuss metropolitan fishing campaign.

Tom has already met with other key agencies including Parks Vic and Melbourne Water to gauge interest and support.

The proposed project will concentrate on freshwater fishing in built up (metropolitan) areas with key areas for focus including infrastructure, access, habitat, events, education, connecting to fishing networks.

Hoping to get direction from FV on what resources are available and where Government priorities lie.

Travis Dowling commended the hard work of Tom Camp and Ron Lewis in developing metropolitan waters in particular Devilbend etc. The Victorian Fisheries Authority is looking at all opportunities to increase participation and access to metro waters, highlighting the largest issue is obtaining access approval from land managers.

Ron Lewis indicated that the main obstacles to public access are land managers risk aversion and water quality issues with metro waters.

Fern Hames sees opportunities to work with land managers to identify the best and most suitable waters for fishing opportunities rather than focus on the unsuitable.

Tom Camp suggested that large agencies such as Melbourne Water are open for the discussion to stock metro waters but need high level FV support to continue.

Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI) summary – Fern Hames                                                           

  • Victorian wild trout program
    • Update on work investigating wild trout temperature tolerance work. Preliminary findings show trout moving upstream to cooler waters during summer and then returning downstream as water temperatures cool, flow rates also trigger movement.
  • Re-establish River Blackfish into areas of rehabilitated habitat in the Tarwin River
    • Researchers looking at options such as relocation to assist in river blackfish recovery throughout the system.
  • Barkers Ck Res: Rebuilding the trout fishery
    • ARI contracted by Bendigo & District Fly Fishers to investigate options to reestablish reservoir as a premier trout fishery.
  • Mulloway genetic investigations
    • ARI undertaking work to establish where mulloway sourced from NSW can be stocked along Victorian coastline.
  • Murray Crayfish
    • Charles Todd (and AquaSave) developed & refined a model for Murray Crayfish to assist management of MCF.
  • Riparian inverts
    • Di Crowther and Phil Papas exploring relationships between riparian veg and inverts ('fish food').
  • Update on Habitat Hotspots program
    • Merrri River – habitat and fishing infrastructure in place. Weed removal and native plant revegetation complete.
    • Gellibrand River – fish hotels and reef ball units installed with more scheduled for instillation in 2016.
    • Werribee River – decommissioned causeway to enable better fish passage.
    • Tarwin River – emphasis on riparian fencing and revegetation.
    • Gippsland Lakes – Riparian works planned.
    • A number of events and forums are planned for the coming 12 months.
    • Local events are showing greater interest from participants in habitat installation and learning more about local species.
  • Carp Koi herpes virus
    • Group discussion relating to the release of the carp herpes virus, limitations, delays etc.

Update on the Mt Unicorn mine development

Rod Barford, President Australian Trout Foundation

Rod Barford advised that the Mt Unicorn mine development threat no longer exists for the catchment area. Consultation between Rod and the company managing operations has seen the Australian board removed from management and the entire mining operation re-evaluated.

Travis Dowling advised that he understood the Department responsible for regulating mining activity in Victoria had suggested that it was highly unlikely that the proposal would be approved by government.

Merv McGuire explained to Roundtable members that Rod Barford is stepping down and Terry George (subject to election) will assume the role of president of the Australian Trout Foundation.

Travis Dowling commended Rod on his tenure thanking him on behalf of Fisheries Victoria for the work he has undertaken on behalf of the recreational fishing community.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority update and progress report for "Target One Million" program

Travis Dowling, Executive Director The Victorian Fisheries Authority      

  • Travis Dowling provided the prototype of the new plastic fishing licence for roundtable members to see and advised that they will be available on line from October.
  • Fishers are encouraged to purchased licenses online as savings in administration costs will all be returned to fishers in the form of fish stocking, facilities, access etc.
  • Travis advised that according to recent statistics Victorians buy $1.4 million worth of NSW licences each year and by contrast NSW purchase only $40K worth of Victorian licences. For this reason NSW will not agree to a shared licence whereby the revenue would be split and shared between the agencies.
  • To enable a more convenient system The Victorian Fisheries Authority have written and requested a dual licence which means fishers pay for both licences but only need to carry one card.
  • The 2015 trout rivers opening festival was very successful with a 20% increase in patronage. Fisheries will continue to expand the festival into the future and would appreciate any suggestions or advice from fishers and roundtable members on how this can be achieved.
  • David Cleeland suggested that consideration of the existing Big Fish Festival is needed to ensure the two events do not clash. Travis Dowling advised that all options would be investigated with regards to potential efficiencies including sharing the festival.
  • Travis advised that The Victorian Fisheries Authority are pushing through a number of election commitments including taking action on water levels at Toolondo, changing Blue Rock boating regulations, opening a trout cod fishery in Beechworth, opening up the Better Fishing Fund, moving ahead with the rollout of commercial netting buyouts. This momentum will continue in terms of effort focused on the recreational fishing sector.

Update on progress of establishment of Fisheries Statutory Authority            

Sally Fensling, Acting Executive Director Regulation & Enforcement, DEDJTR

Merv McGuire and Travis Dowling introduced Sally Fensling to the roundtable group. Travis Dowling advised that the establishment of the stat authority would remain independent of current Fisheries operations.

Sally Fensling explained her role in establishing Fisheries as a statutory authority. The Executive Director Fisheries would continue to lead Fisheries and the statutory authority establishment work will be undertaken by a dedicated team led by herself.

Sally Fensling provided some background, explaining her previous role leading the recent establishment of Victorian Game Authority, but recognised the significant differences between the two.

The Statutory Authority establishment team will assess all future issues and challenges in order to create an authority which is best equipped and resourced to handle these issues, such as government changes.

Sally Fensling has already met and provided advice to minister about high level issues relating to the establishment of the authority.

The Minister has already made some decisions related to the Stat Authority including:

  • Fisheries staff within the new authority will remain at VPS level enabling them to remain in public service which is beneficial for career opportunities, security, retainment of all entitlements etc.
  • Minister has decided upon a name, Victorian Fisheries Authority.
  • The Victorian Fisheries Authority will be operated by a CEO and board that is skill based rather than representative of specific interest.
  • The Victorian Fisheries Authority board will be appointed by minister, and the Victorian Fisheries Authority CEO will then be appointed by the board with assistance from minister.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority board cannot be appointed until legislation is finalised. Legislation will need to be developed which will clarify the process for board recruitment. Minister Pullford  has said that government expects the Victorian Fisheries Authority to be operational by end of 2016.

Sally Fensling advised that the process is complicated and likely to take significant time. The roles and functions of the authority will need to be established.

Ross Winstanley asked if this would be an ideal opportunity to make important changes to the Fisheries Act? Sally Fensling advised that the Minister has not dismissed this as an opportunity to use the establishment of Victorian Fisheries Authority to make changes to Fisheries Act.

The Victorian Fisheries Authority will be required to report annually to parliament and publish its business and financial reports.

Minister would like the board to cover the broad range of fisheries functions. Compliance, Science, management etc. (RW question)

Sally Fensling advised that it is likely that the wider department (DEDJTR) will retain a fisheries policy capability.

There was considerable general discussion amongst Roundtable attendees regarding the creation.

  • Travis Dowling advised that the establishment of Victorian Fisheries Authority has been requested by recreational fishers. He explained that it provides an exciting opportunity for fishers with major advantages with regards to identity, transparency etc. The limitations caused by being part of larger department will be lost.
  • Merv McGuire asked about the establishment or existence of statutory authorities in other states to manage fisheries?
  • Travis Dowling advised that Commonwealth (Aust. Fisheries Management Authority) are a state authority but that generally fisheries agencies sit inside government departments. The Victorian Fisheries Authority will be the first state authority.
  • Ross Winstanley asked how the Victorian Fisheries Authority would be funded. Travis Dowling advised that the authority would receive funding each year through standard government budget processes but that fishers should be aware in the current cost recovery environment recreational fishers are contributing significantly to costs with $2.1 million every year which is re-invested directly into compliance, science stocking, facilities etc.
  • Brian Hayes asked for clarification on the composition of board recreationals vs commercial?
  • Sally Fensling advised that the Victorian Fisheries Authority board membership would be dictated by legislation and members will be appointed based on their skills and experience rather than positions currently occupied in the fishing industry.
  • Tom Camp asked for clarification on the role and function of the Fisheries Advisory Council (FAC)? Travis Dowling advised that Fisheries have postponed further meetings of FAC until the role of the committee is clearly determined following the establishment of the Victorian Fisheries Authority board.
  • Tom Camp asked if there was a working group planned to assist in the establishment. Sally Fensling advised that there was currently nothing formal in place and that a working group may be part of the future consultation process.
  • General discussion about establishment of Victorian Fisheries Authority which has been pushed and requested by recreational fishers

Target One Million Coordinator – Craig Ingram

Travis Dowling introduced Craig Ingram to the Roundtable group, explaining his appointment through cabinet and his background as an independent Member of Parliament, commercial fisher and passionate recreational fisher.

Craig Ingram has been appointed to coordinate the policy implantation which primarily involves the coordination of the Port Phillip Bay commercial netting buyout for 43 licence holders.

Fishcare update – Dave Cleeland

Dave advised that more than six thousand Victorian students from over 250 schools took part in the successful Fish Right Workshop Program for the 2014-15 financial year, making it the most successful year in history for, Fishcare Victoria.

Fishcare have significantly expanded their operations with a big push towards increasing the level of support offered to disability groups in the community that have large numbers of clients who are unable to fish alone.

On-ground activities have extended the organisation's environmental focus including planting over 5000 indigenous plants in riparian zones and running five community clean-up days in premier fishing locations such as the Hopkins, Merri and Goulburn Rivers.

Other highlights for the year have included the employment of, Jacinta Early, as the Port Phillip Facilitator and growing Fishcare's membership by 25%.

Always on the lookout for more volunteers, Fishcare would love to hear from clubs or individuals regarding volunteering opportunities, school contacts or events.

VRFish update – Dallas D'Silva

Dallas advised current game fishing arrangements in Victoria may be under threat from Humane Society International (HSI). Humane Society International are attempting to list game fishing as threatening process under EPBC act.

VRFish have already had productive discussion with game fishing organisations and will be developing strategies to promote responsible game fishing into the future.

Geoff Fisher suggested that in some cases Southern Bluefin Tuna (SBT) fishers need greater awareness and need to be better educated on managing perceptions outside rec fishing community.

Travis Dowling advised that Fisheries have already undertaken important work establishing the value of the SBT fishery to Victoria. SBT are internationally significant quota managed species and it is possible that recreational fishers may be held to quota sometime in the future.

Dallas D'Silva suggested the evidence indicates that stocks of SBT are recovering and growing worldwide and that recreational catch is only a small fraction of the total commercial catch.

Travis Dowling is aware that public perception and conversations regarding recreational catch of SBT is beginning to grow and that recreational fishers need to understand this also.

Update on commercial fishing buy-outs

Jarrod Dobson, Senior Advisor to Minister Jaala Pulford

Jarrod reminded roundtable members of the Target One Million achievements already

  • Trout cod fishery opening which was highly successful in Beechworth.
  • Blue Rock Lake launching the change in boating regulations.

Port Phillip Bay commercial netting buyout

  • A difficult commitment but one the government is committed to delivering.
  • Minister has already met with 30-40 licensees, discussions have been difficult at times but the minister is committed to a fair and respectful process.
  • Craig Ingram has met individually with almost all licensees to discuss the process.
  • Consultation regarding the catch cap will finish at the end of September.
  • The reducing catch cap will apply to individual licences based on catch history of each license. As licenses are bought out the catch cap will decrease.
  • Legislation will go before parliament at the end of this year to ban commercial netting in PPB by April 2022.
  • Merv McGuire enquired about the general age of affected fishers.
  • Craig Ingram advised that there was a big variety amongst fishers from young fishers with families to older fishers nearing retirement as well as large businesses with multiple operators to small single operators.

Senior Advisor for Minister Lisa Neville - Kirsten Shelly

Merv McGuire introduced Kirsten to the roundtable group and invited Travis Dowling to provide some background and explain why Kirsten was attending.

Travis Dowling explained  that many of issues and opportunities relating to recreational fishing were closely aligned with the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water with recent examples including Lake Toolondo, Dartmouth pondage, Lake Eppalock and Lake  Lonsdale.

Merv McGuire invited Kirsten to attend more roundtable meetings in the future to further understand emerging issues that may involve Minister Neville.

Recruitment surveys: Replenishment of our key fisheries

Dr Paul Hamer – Senior Research Scientist The Victorian Fisheries Authority

Paul explained that monitoring of juvenile recruitment currently occurs for snapper, King George whiting and flathead in Port Phillip Bay and black bream in Gippsland Lakes.

Monitoring was undertaken using a variety of methods including

  • Bream otter trawl survey – June (Gippsland Lakes)
  • King George whiting seine net survey  – Oct-Nov (Port Phillip Bay)
  • Snapper/Flathead beam trawl survey – March (Port Phillip Bay)

Snapper

  • Snapper spawn in Port Phillip Bay (PPB) from Nov-Jan (migrating from coastal waters)
  • PPB is the most important spawning and nursery area for snapper in central / western Victoria  'The western stock'
  • Monitoring of juvenile snapper recruitment in PPB informs FV about replenishment of the entire western stock.
  • Fisheries use annual PPB trawls using modified beam trawls to measure abundance.
  • Paul explained that the data set for snapper monitoring including 23 years' worth of data is collected annually which now enables fisheries scientists to make accurate predictions regarding future population fluctuations and catch rates.
  • On average it takes between 6-7 years for snapper to reach adulthood (40cm) and enter the fishery.
  • Data predicts a moderate decline in catch rates in the coming years but stabilising and recovering slightly as above average spawning years  (2008-2012) approach adulthood and enter (legal size) the fishery.

Flathead

  • Sand flathead spend their entire life cycle in PPB spawning.
  • Fisheries annual monitoring has shown a decline in flathead recruitment and adult biomass of approximately 80% over the past 25-30 years.
  • This is supported by catch date collected from commercial fisheries over an even longer period. Tim Curmie asked if channel dredging and associated biological impacts in the bay could be a cause of the decline. Paul Hamer advised that the data indicated the recruitment and population decline began earlier than the bay dredging and was more likely caused by effects of long and prolonged drought on in flows in PPB. Freshwater inflows in PPB appear to be a major driver in the success of annual juvenile recruitment in the bay. Fishers should be aware that the current low biomass may limit the speed of recovery even in the event environmental conditions improve.

King George Whiting (KGW)

  • KGW spawn in late autumn in coastal waters west of Port Phillip Bay towards the SA border.
  • Tiny larvae drift over winter on ocean currents.
  • Westerly winds help promote larval transport into Port Phillip Bay.
  • Larvae arrive at Port Phillip Bay in spring at 20 mm and approximately 100 days old.
  • The bay KGW fisheries are based on juvenile fish from 2-4 years of age.
  • Once they reach 3-4 years of age they migrate out of the bay into oceanic habitat and do not return to the bay.
  • Fisheries use a small fine-mesh net to sample sea grass beds to establish abundance of KGW larvae settling in PPB each year.
  • These fish take approximately 2-3 years to reach legal minimum size.
  • Data indicates that there were a number of poor years of recruitment from 2008 – 2012 which are responsible for the current poor fishing but since then PPB has had a strong recruitment event in 2013 which is expected to drive stronger KGW fishing in the coming years.

Black bream

  • The black bream monitoring program is much younger with a smaller data set established since 2009.
  • Fisheries have developed a cost effective monitoring program using small trawls in the Gippsland Lakes to monitor juvenile black bream abundance.
  • More years of survey data will enable fisheries scientists to make more conclusions about annual variations and fluctuations.

Short videos summarising each of the key species and the monitoring methods used to estimate their abundance were shown and are available on The Victorian Fisheries Authority website.

Media and communications summary

Marc Ainsworth, Senior Communication Advisor Fisheries

  • Marc Ainsworth provided a summary of the wild trout conference and encouraged participants to attend and participate.
  • Blue Rock boating regulations - great opportunities for bass fishers to use powered boats to access a developing and promising fishery.
  • Facebook continues to be an excellent way of regularly communicating with fishers. Compliance stories continue to dominate in terms of popularity.
  • Target One Million webpage is up and running with individual pages for each individual commitment.
  • Merv McGuire asked if there would be a hard copy of inland angling guide as previously.  Brain Mottram and Travis Dowling explained that this was unlikely given the costs and regular changes each year to individual waters.

Freshwater and Target One Million progress update

Brian Mottram - Manager Recreational Fishing Improvements

Opening of Trout Cod Fisheries at Beechworth

  • Anglers can now fish for trout cod in two northeast Victorian lakes thanks to the opening of Lakes Sambell and Kerford to fishing for trout cod by Premier Andrews and Minister Pulford on Friday 14 August 2015. The opening delivers on a key commitment in the State Government's Target One Million plan.
  • Trout cod are classified as a threatened native species nationally and must be returned to the water if caught anywhere else in Australia. The National Trout Cod Recovery Plan supports the trial development of recreational fisheries for stocked trout cod to build community support for conservation of wild populations in rivers. Over 45,000 trout cod fingerlings have been released into Lakes Kerferd and Sambell since 2008.  The regulations at Lake Sambell and Kerferd include a daily bag limit of 1 trout cod per person per day with a slot limit of 40-50 cm.

Talk Wild Trout Conference

  • Anglers can learn more about Victoria's wild trout fisheries at a free one day conference on 21 November in Mansfield.
  • The conference will share the findings of research conducted through the Wild Trout Fisheries Management Program which is a three-year RFL funded program of nine projects that aim to better understand and improve wild trout fisheries.
  • The conference will present results from research on riverine trout populations over the past 12 months, including spawning success in 12 wild trout rivers to trout movement in the Delatite River from acoustic tracking. A keynote address from Dr Dan Dauwalter of Trout Unlimited is also scheduled.
  • Those unable to attend will be able to watch the presentations on our YouTube channel.
  • The Mansfield & District Fly Fishers Club will also host a Film Festival about trout fishing on the Saturday evening. The venue for the conference is the Performing Arts Centre in Mansfield (seats ~ 250 people) and registrations to attend are essential.

Blue Rock Lake Boating Restrictions Lifted

  • Blue Rock Lake is set to become an even better Australian bass fishery thanks to changed rules that now permit boats of any length and any engine size. Water skiing and jet skis will continue to be deterred via a 15 knot speed limit, which applies to all boats.
  • These changes follow community consultation and are in place for a 12 month trial period. The new rules are great news for freshwater anglers who have been keen to access the fishery from larger sport-fishing and trailer boats.
  • Since 2002, more than 160,000 bass fingerlings have been stocked into Blue Rock, which has become one of Victoria's premier destinations for the popular native fish.  
  • The lake is also home to a stocked population of brown trout and rainbow trout, along with a self-sustaining population of redfin.
  • To help promote the bass fishery, some larger tagged specimens were released and will earn their captors a fishing tackle prize

Toolondo Reservoir Advisory Group

  • The Toolondo Reservoir Recreational Fishery Advisory Group has held its fifth and final meeting on finding ways to secure the future of Toolondo Reservoir as one of Victoria's best trout fisheries. 
  • Over the last 6 months, the group has commissioned three independent studies, deployed monitoring equipment and reviewed the performance of the fishery over the last twenty-three years.
  • The Advisory Group's final draft report has now been completed and presented to Government for consideration.
  • In working with Water Agencies and Catchment Management Authorities, it's clear the Wimmera region continues to experience historically low rainfall levels and falling storage levels.
  • Despite low rainfall and water levels, Toolondo still continues to fish well with several fish being caught in recent days up to 3.9kg.

Hazelwood Barramundi Project

  • The Hazelwood Barramundi Working Group is making progress on meeting the commitment of introducing 15,000 Barramundi into Hazelwood Pondage to create a new recreational fishery for the Latrobe Valley.
  • A working group was established in May 2015, consisting of The Victorian Fisheries Authority, GDF SUEZ, Latrobe City Council and key recreational fishers to advise on how best to meet the commitment.
  • The Working Group has held two meetings and is currently considering key issues around the commitment including fishery management, visitation, participation, access, facilities/amenities, Power Station asset and operations, cost implications, promotion and media.
  • Tank based acclimatisation trials to determine the survival of barramundi on Hazelwood Pondage water quality is currently underway.
  • Pending the results of the acclimatisation trials, the next stage may include the small-scale stocking trial of acoustically tagged fish to assess the performance and movement of barramundi in Hazelwood.

Fish Stocking

  • Fisheries have held annual consultation meetings with anglers regarding fish stocking plans and are finalising 5 year contracts with private fish hatcheries to secure future native fish.
  • Snobs Creek infrastructure and capacity will continue to increase as stocking increases.
  • Ron Lewis asked if there is a long term plan to increase capacity.
  • Brian Mottram advised that there is a site master plan which provides for increased capacity and the department is looking at other opportunities to increase production such as entering collaborating with private industry.

Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable #40
Chairman: Merv McGuire
Secretariat: Duncan Hill
Summary Dated: 20/07/2015

Next Statewide Recreational Fishing Roundtable Forum #41– Scheduled December 4, 2015