SRFR Meeting #58 - 17 April 2020

Meeting date: Friday 17 April, 2020 - 10:00am – 12:30pm

Meeting Location: Phone Meeting

Previous Roundtable actions/ Follow up.


No new actions from Meeting #58 – All previous actions complete


COVID-19 / VFA Update - Travis Dowling

Welcome from Travis recognising the challenges of the current COVID19 environment. The VFA continues working to ensure that through patrols, breeding, stocking and other ongoing work and  development projects, fishing will be better than ever when Victoria emerges from the current isolation practices.

The need for transparency in all spending of RFL money was also highlighted by Travis.

Target One Million Phase 2

Members note the following updates:

Golden Tag - Craig Ingram VFA

The Golden Tag program has been suspended by the Minister until fishing reopens in regional areas.

To date 36 tagged fish have been caught, with a wide spread of locations and species.

The Golden Tag has been enormously successful while operational in bringing people to regional areas.

Prawn Stocking in Lake Tyers - Dallas D’Silva VFA

12,000 large king prawns have been stocked into Lake Tyers so far. That will make a total of 15,000 when the final stocking is done in the next few weeks. This election commitment has gone really well with reports of prawns literally jumping into boats as they head back to the boat ramp on dark.

Gippsland Lakes Netting - Dallas D’Silva VFA

Another Significant election commitment was to return the Gippsland Lakes to recreational fishers and the environment. A lot of time was put into planning the commercial netting licence buy back.

All 10 of the licence holders have decided to take the buyback now, so as of the 1st April 2020 the Gippsland Lakes are now commercial fishing net free. $9.4 million of compensation has been paid to affected fishers.  VRFish and others expressed their thanks for delivering this reform. The VFA has started work on a draft recreational fishing recovery plan. The plan will be distributed to a number of key stakeholders and will be addressed at a Skype meeting in the next week.

Acknowledgement was made of the work done by Heidi Flower of Minister Pulford’s office to progress the Gippsland Lakes Netting legislation through the State Parliament.

Fish Cleaning Tables - Chris Padovani VFA

Work is being done with this $600,000 program and a Ministerial briefing has been prepared for endorsement of our proposal. We are looking to put in 8 fish cleaning tables around the State. These would need land manager approval and agreement from the manager for ongoing maintenance of the facility.

Angler Access - Chris Padovani VFA

The VFA have worked in partnership with DELWP to develop the new legislation to remove the prohibition on camping on crown land frontage. That legislation passed through the Lower House in November 2019 and was due to go through the Upper House in March but has been delayed by the bushfires and then Covid19. In the interim the VFA is working in partnership with DELWP to develop a suite of regulations to enable camping on crown land river frontage. DELWP have indicated concern about environmental damage that may be caused by camping in these areas. Until the legislation is passed and the regulations are implemented the VFA is actively improving angler access. 13 strategic sites have been located on the Goulburn River, with a further 30 sites on the Campaspe and also on the Steavenson River. Information signs are being installed. The target is to have 150 access sites by 30 June 2021.

New Native Fish Hatchery - Anthony Forster VFA

The business case for the Northern Hatchery has been submitted to Treasury, and we are now waiting on a final capital build budget. We have asked for $4.6m and that will make a total of $7m. That money should allow us to deliver Stage 1. That Stage would deliver 1.6 million fish per year including 1.2 million golden perch and 400,000 Murray cod.

We are hopeful that in the future there will be opportunity for expansion.

Property management is under way with inspections of all buildings, removal of asbestos, input of signage, cattle agistment to keep grass levels down and conversion of the main house to an office facility.

The contract position of Owners Engineer has gone out to tender to have someone with engineering experience to assist with the preparation of tender documents and to provide on site project management to ensure work is done to our specifications and to keep variation costs and contingency costs down.

Work is being done with GoTafe Shepparton to establish a Cert III in Aquaculture Training. GoTafe are seeking funds to build a dedicated facility for this purpose.

By June the Owners Engineer organisation should be in place, by October the design and construction contract will be in place, most approvals should be compete during October – December and construction should run from December 2020 to September 2021.

Stage 2, when implemented, would double the capacity at a fraction of the initial cost.

Urban Lakes Native Fish Stocking - Anthony Forster VFA

Over the 2019-2020 summer season there has been extensive stocking in 14 waters, mostly urban, with more than 38,000 Murray cod and golden perch averaging between 400-500g. Those waters will be stocked again next year but with lesser quantities.

Waters stocked are: Regional waters - Upper Coliban, Lauriston, Pykes Creek and Barkers Creek; Urban waters – Lilydale, Spavin Lake, Navan Park, Albert Park, Roxburgh Park, Rowville Lakes, Casey Fields, Melton Res,  Karkarook Lake, and Ferntree Gully Quarry.

For the first time ever Murray cod have been stocked into Pykes Creek Res, with plans to also stock golden perch when available.

We have worked with Coliban Water to install fish habitat into Barkers Creek. A lead role has been taken by Anthony McGrath (VFA). The habitat was created using a low-cost log format. This will be of great benefit to Murray cod and golden perch that have been stocked in the area.

Work is being done to put fish habitat into the Maribyrnong River. This is an RFL funded project, cofounded by Melbourne Water. To date 200,000 estuary perch have been stocked. We have prepared a fish habitat installation plan covering the installation of timber and rock in 8 reaches between Flemington and Avondale Heights.

We are committed to expanding our Macquarie perch and trout cod breeding at Snobs Creek. This year we will focus on increasing the brood stock numbers. Steve Vidler has been appointed to lead this.

Fish Stocking 19/20 - Brian Mottram VFA

A table summary of the last 20 years of stocking has been issued to SRFR members showing the increases that have been made, particularly with Target One Million. This year we have reached 6 million fish stocked for the third year in a row. We are aiming to stock 8 million by this time next year.

A lot of effort has been put into growing brown trout at Snobs Creek as they are not readily available from external sources.

The Vic Fish Stock consultation process has been delayed due to the current Covid19 situation and the bushfires earlier this year leaving waters needing time for recovery and assessment. The VFS meeting has been put back by approximately 4 weeks to mid-May.

Hatchery staff are still working on site at Snobs Creek each day, adhering to social distancing and good hygiene practices. Fish are still being stocked regularly but staff cannot be assisted by anglers at this time.

Chinook salmon have been spawned with good results. Rainbow and brown trout will be spawned from mid-May.

New staff who have started at Snobs Creek are Program Manager Dylan White and Adele Moyes as Native Fish Manager. Steve Vidler continues as a consultant, mentoring staff and working in the breeding and brood stock collection programs for native fish.

150 large 60-90cm Murray cod brood stock have been sourced from channels, from a fish farm that is closing, and also from the Darling River rescue program. These are now agisted in more than 20 farm dams through northern Victoria.

ARI have been contracted for the collection of trout cod brood stock to enable increased production in the future.

Events Update - Brian Mottram VFA

Details of event statistics over 2019 were issued to SRFR. Approx 80 events were held for the year.

VFA ambassadors have been working well at events and on social media.

WIRF continues to grow with over 2,000 Facebook group members. The group has been doing online presentations during Covid19 to keep engaged.

Events have been put on hold until September when the Trout Opening Festivals will be on in Ballarat and Eildon.

Fishcare staff and volunteers attend many VFA events providing clinics and presentations. VFA will amend the presentation to ensure that fishcare are acknowledged in future.

Communications - Marc Ainsworth VFA

Facebook posts have seen variances that have never been seen before due to the bushfires and Covid19.

There was a reach of 10,000,000 in December brought about by a post on cod nesting boxes. A spike in February came about when the Golden Tag was announced.

The top 3 posts were Cod nest, Golden Tag and a snapper Enforcement post.

Instagram followers showed more interest in the bushfire recovery materials.

Twitter has only a small following of about 1000.

IVT – Jarod Lyon and Anthony Forster

DELWP is working with the Minister for Water, Lisa Neville, for a review of water trade rules. This is a three State process and a science panel is to be review the impacts of higher flows on fish, in stream vegetation, waterway banks. This is currently under way. There will be a public consultation period where anglers will be able to provide feedback. At the same time industry consultation will be happening.

The VFA are concerned that high river summer flows in the Goulburn River, below Nagambie, are impacting one of our best native fisheries.

  • If this continues, it will ruin this wonderful Murray cod fishery we have built up over the last 20 years,
  • If this continues, we can expect a 30% annual decline in natural breeding of Murray cod,
  • It is eroding the banks and causing bankside vegetation to fall into the river,
  • It is undermining the benefits of environmental watering,
  • We have learned these lessons on countless other rivers in the past and, we don’t want to repeat these mistakes.

DELWP are soon to start a review of Inter Valley transfers and will be look at options to reduce summer flows, where possible.

We encourage recreational fishers to have their say on this review – general or specific.

For more information and to find out how you can have your say please click on his link.

RFL Review - Dallas D’Silva, Brian Mottram & Travis Dowling

The RFL review was undertaken between August and November 2019 following a request from VRFish. The review was commissioned by Marsden Jacobs and recommendations have been approved by the Minister. The Minister has, in the main, endorsed all recommendations. A copy of the report is on the VFA website. There is also a table showing the Government responses to the five key recommendations.

Strategic Plan for RFL

The completion date for the Strategic Plan is March 2021 with a draft plan by November 2020.

One of the key recommendations was the need for an over-arching strategic plan to guide how RFL money is invested. There needs to have flexibility to adapt to future opportunities, while having a strategic view about what it is to be achieved. A strategic framework will be developed to underpin the direction for RFL projects and resources, noting the majority of the record spend on recreational fishing comes from non-RFL Government sources such as Target One Million.

Evaluation and performance measurement will continue to be enhanced across all key RFL expenditure. The Government supported this recommendation.

Changes to Grants

There is a recommendation to allow for a new mid-sized category of grant. This is expected to be well supported and a great opportunity to get some mid-sized grants and grants outside of the annual cycle.  This concept was first raised by the Australian Trout Foundation and it is great to see it supported. Work will be done with the RFL working group to have this implemented as soon as possible, aiming for September.

Having appropriate project administration management costs available to grants recipients. This has been given Government support. This would also cover volunteer out of pocket expenses, but excluding volunteer time. Project management payments would not be available to other Government agencies.

Greater guidance to be provided to applicants on the likely priorities of the Fishing Grants Program. The strategic plan will be helpful in achieving this goal.

We think that the mid-size grants will help to deliver on the request for an expression of interest program for medium size projects.

The reform to the grants process will more formally consider the public and co-investment required for different types of projects based on the expected public and private benefits.

There is currently a mix of skills on the RFL Working Group to ensure that it comprises an appropriate  and diverse set of skills across the recreational fishing sector. Additionally, there are already well established governance protocols to address and manage any perceived conflict of interest.  The current situation where VRFish puts forward a nominee from their organisation will be reviewed as part of this process.  The VFA and Government will continue to seek and recruit the best people for the working group.

The VFA wants to continue to build on improved transparency and accountability with the RFL, including the Working Group. The group have profiles shown on the VFA website.

Review of VRFish

Following clear stakeholder feedback into the review, there is a recommendation that there be a comprehensive review undertaken of VRFish in 2020. The Government has supported that recommendation. That review will be undertaken by an independent consultant funded by the RFL and take up to 12 months to complete. It is proposed that this review commences in June 2020.

Michael Burgess, EO of VRFish expressed his disappointment with the review, and lack of consideration of changes being implemented within VRFish and lack of opportunity to consult with anglers. The VFA noted that VRFish has been consulted on all aspects of the review and it should continue to engage constructively in the process. Travis emphasised that the VFA would be pleased to brief the VRFish Board on this going forward. David Kramer welcomed the findings of the review and commented that surveys to determine participation rates would be better addressed if exemptions were removed. With regard to any changes to RFL exemptions, the Government view was that the costs of any changes would outweigh the benefits.

VRFish Update - Mike Burgess

VRFish is still operational despite COVID19, and is taking a responsible role of supporting the Government efforts to stop the virus while also advocating the fact that fishing is great for mental health. We have been inundated with calls since Stage 3 was introduced seeking clarification of the restrictions on fishing. Views have been expressed both for and against isolation and the restriction on fishing.

Mike will be sending information to the SRFR Chair for distribution on Southern Bluefin Tuna, Gippsland Lakes, IVT.

The VRFish position on SBT is for formal and secure access for Victorian recreational fishers, we want to maintain the status quo with the current SBT recreational bag limit, we need to also make sure we are planning for growth, and continued support for the Tuna Champions. A briefing has been received saying that the total catch around Australia was 270 tonnes. Based on a 12 month snapshot we need to ensure that we don’t agree to any long term arrangements. The robust survey gives an opportunity to say to fishers that there is absolutely no need to change any rules.

Travis Dowling explained that the VFA does not support the findings of the survey. The claim that the catch has gone from 300 tonne to 80 tonnes in the last 9 years, despite population growth and snapper fishers now regularly targeting tuna close Melbourne shows how flawed it is. It conveniently is very close to the allowance that the tuna industry and the Commonwealth Government has made available to recreational fishers.  This allocation is not supported by the VFA. The findings of the University of Tasmania SBT survey are rejected by the VFA. As the peak body meant to be advocating for recreational fishing in Victoria, the VFA is concerned that VRFish are accepting that 80 tonnes of tuna from the survey even though it failed to cover key fishing grounds east of Apollo Bay.

ATF Update - Terry George

Working together with the CMA’s, VFA, VFFH&Flows & ARI, the ATF Habitat Army of volunteers have been involved in habitat restoration projects on the Buckland, Rubicon, Steavenson, Ovens, Delatite, Jamieson, Macalister, Mitta Mitta & Goulburn Rivers and Nariel Creek. A number of these projects were funded by the VFA Better Fishing Fund, for which we are most grateful.

Unfortunately, the Steavenson River “Trees for Trout” day scheduled for 16th May had to be cancelled, but the good news from Sue Kosch (GBCMA) is that the fencing off of the crown land is currently underway and it has been decided to engage contractors to plant the 2,000 trees in May or June.

The planned “Trees for Trout” day on the Ovens River at Porepunkah (4,000 trees) with NECMA and the Upper Ovens valley Landcare Group has also been put on hold until further notice. This site was recently enhanced by a joint NECMA & ATF in-stream boulder seeding and woody habitat restoration project.

In discussions between the ATF & GBCMA, we decided to make the Steavenson section from Buxton to Marysville a priority stream for habitat restoration works. This approx. 10k (by road) stretch has been terribly neglected, mainly because of access restrictions, and it needs a lot of love and attention.

We still have approx. 80 potential projects listed for investigation, from our Habitat Workshops held at Myrtleford, Heidelberg and Traralgon. We have had to postpone one other workshop we had scheduled with the Glenelg Hopkins CMA.

Resulting from previous discussions held with Andrew Briggs of NECMA regarding stream temperature data, Andrew instigated a trial on selected water monitoring stations on the Ovens River.

Tom Camp noted the quality of the ATF report as provided by Terry George and that it articulates and is working well with Anthony Forster and the Inland Freshwater Fisheries Strategies. The ATF and all those associated should be commended.

NFA Update - Tim Curmi

Macquarie Perch hatchery

  • Continue to on grow/wean Macquarie perch fingerlings from Snobs Creek onto artificial diet.  Now have two separate year classes.  Some of these fish were transferred to NFA for feeding until they are able to be released into the Buffalo River as part of bushfire recovery.
  • Organising required permits for this years breeding.

New Hatchery

  • Discussions with La Trobe Uni progressing well
  • Have support from the Wildlife Sanctuary & a number of academics
  • La Trobe Uni have developed a concept plan and budget for new building
  • Continue to lobby State & Federal politicians
  • Visit from local federal member Ged Kearney & meetings with Kevin Andrews and Matthew Guy.

Native Fish Challenge 2020

  • 26th annual event held in late February
  • Approximately 90 participants from 6 angling clubs
  • Fish numbers around ½ of last years captures.
  • Thank you to the VFA for support given for event.
  • Fish capture data shared with NSW Fisheries

Ovens River Challenge 2020

  • Cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns.
  • Already started planning for 2021 challenge

Southern Pygmy Perch breeding/stocking program

  • Project partners City of Greater Bendigo, North Central CMA, ANGFA (Vic), Middle Creek Aquaculture and NFA (Vic).
  • Have released first batch of 800 SPP into waterways around Bendigo
  • Had planned for further releases in late March – now on hold.

Fish Tanks in Schools program

  • Successful in two federal CEP grants
  • Funds for tanks in schools in federal electorates of Cooper and Menzies
  • Stocked with Southern Pygmy Perch & other local small bodied natives.
  • Have installed 4 tanks with another 8 planned.  With be installed after Covid-19 restrictions lifted
  • Some interest from local councils & Landcare

Meeting with Melbourne Water

  • Topics discussed included;
    • Management of Macquarie Perch and other fish in the Yarra River
    • Metropolitan stocking particularly Sugarloaf
    • Instream habitat throughout the Yarra catchment.

Snobs Creek Water Quality

  • Recent reports of bad water quality in Snobs Creek
    • After commencement of logging in catchment & local heavy rain
  • Initiated daily independent water quality monitoring.

Response to Draft Plans

  • Have drafted detailed written responses to the following
    • Draft Yarra Strategic Plan (Can be found on the NFA website)
    • Native Fish Recovery Strategy

Fishcare Update – Sarah Van Stokrom

The work done by Fishcare with schools and community events has been severely impacted by Covid19 but Fishcare is still operational.

The All Abilities program has gone on hold until post-Covid19. It is a valuable program and it’s expected that there will be a great call for these activities when it starts up.

Many of the Fishcare volunteers fall into the high risk category and so have been moved to technology for communication.

They are working towards online teaching to remain in the classrooms of the 95 schools that they work with.

Questions & Close - Julia Menzies

Tom Camp requested information on Recommendation 1 of the RFL Review. Tom put forward that the recommendation was that there needs too be a partnership specifically with the SRFR to plan for the development of an RFL Strategic Plan. He suggested a SRFR meeting devoted to the Strategic Plan for discussion. Travis Dowling responded that the SRFR will have input but ultimately an external body will facilitate the development of the plan.

Meeting closed 12:30pm

Next Roundtable meeting #59 - will be on Friday 3rd July 2020 at 10:00am at Level 15, 1 Spring Street, Melbourne (TBC)