SRFR Meeting #59 - Friday 3 July 2020
Meeting date: Friday 3rd July 2020
Meeting Location: Zoom Meeting
Previous Roundtable actions/ Follow up.
OUTSTANDING/ONGOING ACTIONS (from previous meetings)
NEW ACTIONS – Arising from Meeting #59
Macquarie Perch rescued from Buffalo River following the bushfires suffered some mortalities as a result of the fires. Work has been done to relocate these fish. Report to be provided for next meeting.
Minutes from Meeting #58 accepted.
VFA Update - Travis Dowling
Travis thanked Julia for the work that she is doing as Chair of the SRFR.
The difficult times that we are currently living through were noted by Travis, including a change of Minister in the last week. Minister Jaala Pulford and Adviser Heidi Flower should be recognised for the work that they did over 6 years since 2014 with a legacy of achievement that will stand for many years to come. Also recognition of the work that Rob Loats and Mike Burgess did in putting out a media release supporting Jaala Pulford was noted. Jaala Pulford has moved on to lead the employment portfolio amongst other areas.
The new Minister is Melissa Horne and her Advisor is Claire Rowe and they will join us today. Minister Horne has been to a number of fishing events in the past week including stocking, aquaculture and appearing on Talking Fishing. We now get back to business as usual, rolling out our Target One Million program and to continue to grow fishing across Victoria.
Lake Hume will be the first waterway where you can have either a Victorian or NSW fishing licence, which is a really good reform piece. Stocking is progressing well and will continue to increase with the development of the Northern Hatchery at Arcadia under Anthony Forster’s guidance.
A funding grant has been allocated to the ATF to assist with habitat work and is great recognition of the work done by the group.
Spider Crabs - Dallas D’Silva
Spider crab fishing is an important activity that has emerged over the last couple of years and is an important activity in Port Phillip Bay for some members of our multi-cultural community. A lot of work has been done with VRFish over the last 12 months looking at understanding the social and cultural value of this fishery. Parts of the community are wanting recreational fishing of spider crabs banned. Research work has commenced, lead by Corey Green, to understand movement of the crabs. Over 90% of those observed fishing for spider crabs have been found to be compliant.
Mike Burgess added that it shows how quickly our recreational fishing sector can evolve into opportunities which present themselves and that work needs to be done to establish best practice for fishers and also divers wanting to see the spider crab aggregation.
Racial undertones have also been identified with criticism received with this and other events involving large numbers of the Asian community.
Southern Bluefin Tuna - Dallas D’Silva VFA
The VFA remains concerned with the way the Commonwealth made a decision to set aside 5% of Australia’s tuna resource to recreational fishers and 95% is with the commercial industry. 5% is not enough to cover recreational fishing going forward. That 5% or 300 tonnes of tuna needs to cover 5 States (WA, SA, Vic, NSW and Tas). The survey done in Victoria didn’t cover the whole fishery but the catch numbers were used by the Commonwealth to justify the 5%. There was no consultation through the Australian Fisheries Management Forum. There will be a Poddy Mullet podcast about this along with other media coverage aiming to have the 5% overturned.
Follow Up Actions – RFL Review – Dallas D’Silva VFA
The Medium Size Grant will be introduced later this year to sit between the Large and Small Grants.
We have gone out for tenders for a strategic plan for the RFL investment going forward, which was one of the key recommendations of the Marsden Jacobs report. The quotes that came back were very expensive and are not considered value for money. One was over $100,000 to develop a strategic plan. The VFA doesn’t consider that to be good use of RFL funds. We are proposing that we get together a small working group of interested stakeholders to develop a strategic plan for the RFL with the assistance of suitably skilled VFA staff. The time frame to establish a committee is in the next 2 weeks pending a prior briefing to Minister Horne. Tom Camp and David Grisold both pointed out the importance of transparency and independence with any reviews that are conducted.
Robert Loats noted there were anomalies with the consultant’s review and said consultants often come up with recommendations for more reviews to keep themselves in employment. Also he noted spending up to $90,000 on another consultants review of RFL expenditure was not value for money and this money was better allocated toward on ground projects that benefit recreational fishing. He supported appointing Andrew Hodges from the VFA conducting a process of documenting a priority process for future RFL funding and VRFish currently had surveys from recreational fishers that could feed into the process, further current “Target One Million” currently provides benefits for recreational fishing outcomes.
Minister for Fishing and Boating - Melissa Horne
The Minister joined the meeting.
The Minister introduced herself and expressed her pleasure in taking on the Fishing and Boating portfolio and becoming involved with the VFA. The Minister acknowledged the great work of Jaala Pulford and her outstanding contribution. Minister Horne has hit the ground running, attending a fish stocking event, visiting the local angling club and the Barramundi farm at Werribee.
Golden Tag - Craig Ingram VFA
Craig updated the group that this program has been a huge success but it will be suspended again due to COVID.
Access & Reefs and RFLs- Chris Padovani VFA
Exciting progress has been made since the last SRFR meeting on recreational fishing reefs. We are on track to complete Nature Conservancies 3ha of shellfish reefs in the Dromana and Corio Bay areas by 31 December 2020. The VFA is also expecting to complete the 3 reefs in the Geelong area by 31 December. Thanks were extended to Russell Conway for his work towards the provision of 2000 tonnes of basalt by the Department of Justice for the Geelong reefs. The kingfish reef is expected to be located just inside the heads on the Mornington Peninsular side of the bay. Work is being done in collaboration with scientists from DELWP and Port of Melbourne to determine the location.
Work is being done by the VFA to improve and increase access public access to public land. The VFA and DELWP have been able to agree in principle to a range of draft regulations to govern the legislation that passed in the Lower House of Parliament last year.
There was an internal target for 2019/20 RFL sales being sold on-line of 80%, but 93% on-line sales was achieved.
Freshwater Fisheries – Taylor Hunt VFA
Dallas noted that Anthony Forster is now full time as Manager of the Northern Hatchery development, and Taylor Hunt has taken over as Freshwater Fisheries Manager.
1500 native fish salvaged from irrigation channels
This year we’ve teamed up again with Goulburn Murray Water and salvaged native fish from 16km of irrigation channels near Cobram and 5 siphons in the Shepparton Irrigation area.
To date we’ve saved an incredible 1,500 native fish including 1,263 Murray cod (2 to 95cm), 88 golden perch up to 50 cm (3 kg plus),188 blackfish. Most fish were translocated into nearby public waters with the help of local anglers. 50 golden perch and 40 Murray cod were retained in dams for future broodstock at the new native fish hatchery. The salvage has been a great initiative to return these fish to public waterways for breeding and fishing, that would otherwise be lost in the system.
Record 8 million fish to be stocked this year
This year’s draft stocking plan for 8 million fish across 13 species has been prepared and distributed to 130 attendees of Vic Fish Stock forums for comment. Comments have been received and are currently being assessed for production of the final stocking plan in the Vic Fish Stock report.
In the wake of this summer’s devastating bushfires we have met with ATF, NFA, VRFish and local anglers regarding recovery of river systems and fisheries in the north east. Encouragingly, some signs of recovery are evident however we have planned surveys of affected rivers/creeks (Corryong, Nariel, Cudgewa) along with stocking trials for trout and Murray cod. Stocking trials will likely include the use of NSW Gaden / Jindbyne / Thredbo River strain brown trout. Anglers will be engaged in the surveys and stocking trials, with results presented at Talk Wild Trout Conference and Murray Codference.
A key election commitment made by the Premier of Victoria and listed under Target One Million was to allow recreational boating access at Tarago Reservoir. VFA have commenced partnership discussions with Melbourne Water to progress this commitment, starting with a fish population survey this winter to benchmark the species present, including size classes, condition of fish, recruitment and genetics.
Historically Tarago Reservoir and its tributaries supported a popular and productive brown trout fishery, which was highly valued by the community, so we are looking forward to again finding out what lies beneath!
Record growth of golden perch in Wetland stocking trial
A pilot stocking trial into a wetland in northern Victoria has revealed extraordinary growth from golden perch. In January 2019 VFA collaborated with a CMA and Traditional Owners and stocked a waterway with golden perch that was receiving environmental water. In June 2020 a survey found thirty-five plump golden perch ranging from 30 to 35cm. Otoliths from these fish revealed they were 1+ year old fish, representing record growth that would usually take around 3 years. We anticipate these fish are likely to be from our stocking and we are now doing otolith microchemistry to confirm.
These early results suggest the incredible growth of fish and a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of environmental water to native fish and recreational anglers. We can’t reveal the location of the wetland until the stocking trial is completed, but stay tuned for further updates…
Maribyrnong River revival project
The Maribyrnong River Fish Habitat Installation Plan has been completed nominating 8 key sites (from 35) along the Maribyrnong river (between Avondale Heights to Flemington racecourse).
Habitat is currently being investigated including rock (Department of Justice), natural woody structures, with elements of concrete structures used for in-water stability. 208,000 estuary perch have been stocked so far and a further 100,000 planned next summer. OzFish Unlimited will deliver final historical review report in July/August 2020.
Inter Valley Transfers
‘Inter-Valley Transfers’ or IVT’s are the transfer of large volumes of water down the Goulburn River for downstream irrigation demands, which are impacting native fish, the environment and community values. Recent unpublished modelling by the Arthur Rylah Institute suggest a doubling of summer flows from IVT’s is likely to decrease Murray cod recruitment by up to 30% per annum. The Goulburn River also supports valuable populations of threatened trout cod, golden perch, and silver perch, as well as Murray Spiny Freshwater Crayfish. Impacts from high flows are also expected for these listed threatened native species. VFA are currently seeking further scientific information from ARI fish ecology experts on impacts from IVT’s on nursery habitats for larval and juvenile threatened fish species. The VFA and recreational fishing groups are continuing to advocate that base flows be maintained below 1,000 ML/day to protect native fish populations, fisheries, indigenous heritage and community values.
Native Fish Report Cards
VFA have submitted a Large Grant RFL bid to continue the Native Fish Report Cards Program for the next three years. The collaborative bid with DELWP is worth $750,000, including a $120,000 contribution from RFL so it’s good angler value for money. The program surveys 10 rivers across 9 different native freshwater species and gives us unprecedented native fish population health data to track our fisheries, assess management interventions. Presented in report cards, the data engages anglers in native fishery improvements and assists in national stock status of these species (underway).
Wild Trout Fisheries Management Program
The VFA continue to work closely with Terry George and the ATF and the ATF have submitted an RFL bid for phase 3 of the Wild Trout Fisheries Management Program.
The RFL bid includes nine elements which deliver on many aspects of the Wild Trout Strategic Plan and complement the fantastic work the ATF are doing to restore fish habitat.
Pending RFL funding announcements, we have started delivering on a brown trout broodstock management plan to assess and maximise the genetic diversity of brown trout at Snobs Creek, with trout fishers finclipping caught wild brown trout to benchmark the genetics of wild stocks.
Conferences - Talk Wild Trout Conference and Murray Codference
The Talk Wild Trout Conference and Murray Codference series’ over the past five years have
been tremendously successful (see our webpages here and here). COVID-19 has presented new challenges for face-to-face angler engagement given social distancing requirements. The tentative dates for Murray Codference is Sunday 8 November and Talk Wild Trout is Saturday 14 November.
We are considering options for hosting conferences digitally or partially digital and will discuss the options with both Trout and Murray cod Fisher Reference groups.
Bushfire Recovery – Renae Ayres - ARI
Some of the fish recovered from the bushfires that have gone to ARI including galaxids, blackfish, muscles, crayfish are in our aquariums at the moment while habitats recover. We are looking at returning some of those into the wild in August.
Some DELWP Bushfire Biodiversity grants are currently available to private land owners, volunteer groups including anglers and also environmental volunteer networks in the fire effected areas. Applications close towards the end of July.
New Native Fish Hatchery - Anthony Forster VFA
The new property has been purchased – 170 ha at Arcadia on the Goulburn River. Work has been done over the past 6 months getting the property up to scratch, video surveillance has been installed, buildings renovated, fence repairs, office established, replaced a pumping system from Castle Creek and are currently filling our 60Ml dam.
An Owner’s Engineer has been contracted and major onsite works will commence later this year to assist with management, planning and approvals. Construction is planned to be completed by late 2021 and fish production underway by 2022. A second stage design workshop will be held on 13 July to ratify the earthworks and hatchery design. We already have a concept design.
We have acquired over 200 brood stock over the last 6 months, mostly Murray cod and also golden perch. Those fish have been agisted in 15 farm dams in northern Victoria. These have come from the irrigation channel rescue project, the Darling River rescue project and some were purchased from a fish farm that was closing down in southern NSW. Earthworks contracts are expected to go out in September. The new tender for buildings will go out early in the new year and we are hopeful that between June and October of 2021 the hatchery will be completed and production will commence in the summer of 2021/22.
Additional funding is being sought from the Federal Government and if this is achieved some of that will go into the development of the visitors centre.
An indigenous employment training program is being set up with GoTAFE Shepparton. An expression of interest process will be used to identify young indigenous people suitable to work at the hatchery and they will go through a 1 year Cert III TAFE course. We are keen to have more than just a fish farm and want to tell the story of native fish in the landscape and the indigenous connections.
Support from VRFish and others to assist in gaining funding through the Federal Government would be greatly appreciated.
Communications - Marc Ainsworth VFA
The 2019/2020 social media year was summarised in graphs. The number of posts through to December was consistently around 80 per month until the bushfires hit and our social media was put on hold to allow for priority messages from the Premier. Things improved over February and March and the COVID-19 hit and the number of posts dipped again. We are now recovering again doing 2 or 3 posts per day.
Our best performing and highest reaching posts were often about Snobs Creek and breeding fish, particularly cod. They weren’t professionally made videos, mainly take by staff members on an iphone. One of those featuring a cod nesting box went truly viral with a reach of 50 million. The Golden Tag launch reached nearly a million. Another dominant theme is cod caught in Lake Eildon. Enforcement is always Enforcement posts. We have also been pushing RFL posts.
Fish Stocking 19/20 - Marc Ainsworth VFA
Graphs provided showing stocking for the current season since April 2020. There has been some late native stocking and the salmonid stocking is at its peak during the cooler months. The 3 weeks before school holidays saw a frantic stocking of the Family Fishing Lakes across Victoria with 35,000 catchable trout going into 80 lakes.
The stocking goal for 2020-2021 is 8 million fish, increasing to the Target One Million commitment of 10 million by 2022.
Events Update - Marc Ainsworth VFA
The events situation is constantly being reviewed in lieu of COVID-19. We are experimenting with digital forums as a last resort if we cannot hold physical conferences and events. Our preference is to do face-to-face but the reality is that the risks remain and public and staff safety are paramount. We will continue to communicate about events through social media.
VRFish Update - Mike Burgess
The New VRFish Strategic Plan 2020-24 is almost complete. There will be a stand-alone Advocacy Plan to be developed by recreational fishers. There is a focus protecting our fishing future, on keeping access to public waters for fishers and enhancing our fishing experiences.
VRFish are introducing new free individual membership category.
We are preparing a recreational fisher advocacy priorities survey to drive development of our Advocacy Plan. A new position is being created for an Advocacy Co-ordinator. This is not an extra staff member, but a recreation of the role formerly held by Michelle Wenner who has now taken up a position with the VFA.
Over the last financial year over 100,000 website visitors and over 2 million Facebook reach.
ATF Update - Terry George
Unfortunately, the Trees for Trout plantings days scheduled for the Steavenson and Ovens Rivers were called off because of COVID 19 restrictions. However, great work by Sue Kosch (GBCMA) has seen the crown land frontage fenced off at McNamara’s property (Marytone Lane), plus the adjoining property (approx. 2k’s). In addition, Sue has engaged a contractor to plant the trees to take advantage of getting them well set during the wet season.
Liaising with Andrew Briggs (NECMA) and Peter Jacobs (Upper Ovens Landcare) and all being allowable, we shall re-schedule the big 4,000 trees planting day near Porepunkah for August/September.
Steavenson River Walk – Citizen (Angler) Science.
On 3rd June, we had a group of 14 from the ATF (TG), Sue Kosch (GBCMA), Renae Ayres (ARI & VFFH&F) Anthony McGrath (VFA), Tim Curmi (NFA) and 11 passionate rec. fishers from the VFFA, CVFFC, Red Tag FF, Southern FF, Yarra Valley FF and APYAC, mapped habitat along the river between Marysville & Buxton. It was a citizen science operation with the objective to formulate a project to improve fish habitat and angler access along this section of the river. We formed teams of 2 – 3 and each team was allocated one of five sections of approx. 2 – 3 k’s to walk and record issues about angler access, stock access and fencing, weeds, revegetation needs, bank erosion etc. The VFA have prepared angler access signs for this area which will be erected soon. The ATF are in discussions regarding the possibility of acquiring licences for the 2 Crown land unused road reserves along this area, which can also provide angler access points. We are seeking a fair and just outcome where people are accountable, and the river is repaired and access restored. If we find it necessary to submit a proposal to amend the current crown land frontage licence conditions to achieve just results for the Steavenson and all other streams, we shall be looking to advocacy groups such as this Roundtable forum, VFFH&F forum, WTRG, plus recreational anglers and clubs for support.
Rubicon River Walk
A meeting with the Rubicon Outdoor Education Managers was arranged by Paul Stolz (ATF) and Sue Kosch (GBCMA) for 16th June. Attended by Sue, Paul. TG and Andrew & Tony (Edu Dept). The purpose was to plan to work together to ensure a safe trail for secondary school students and recreational anglers from the outdoor school centre to Camp Jungai (approx. 2.6k). The access along the river is quite good until you reach the trout farm outlet, where an improved bridge will be required over the water outlet back into the river. In all, we marked 8 places on the map where stiles will be required, plus another at the road access point should we successfully obtain permission for angler access from the current Landowner. More than 90% of this stretch of the crown river frontage is unfenced and is open to stock access; damage is evident. Riparian vegetation is practically non-existent apart from some old gum trees. This riparian restoration work and/or fencing will not be immediate, because there’s a great deal of liaison work with Landowners required to seek their co-operation and approval.
Working with NECMA, VFFH&F & REC. ANGLERS & CLUBS
Ovens River - "Trees for Trout" planting day at Porepunkah; delayed by COVID; now planned for September 2020.
Ovens River near Smoko Campground - Weed control, planting most likely in 2020/21.
Nariel Creek - repair last year’s planting and Briggsy currently assessing other planting sites
that will require revegetation because the bushfire damage.
Kiewa River at Tawonga; possibly another site on crown land.
Morses Creek near Wandiligong - revetment works and in-stream habitat & planting. Part of EC5 NECMA bid.
Working with GBCMA VFFH&F & REC. ANGLERS & CLUBS
Delatite River - Hearns Rd to Delatite Lane to be considered when funding is available.
Delatite River Gorge - as above when funding is available.
Jamieson River - more boulder seeding along Russell Bates property required.
We also have a number of projects with WGCMA including habitat restoration projects on the Macalister & Wellington Rivers, Thomson, Agnes & Franklin Rivers, and more. In addition, when allowable by COVID 19 rulings, we will schedule the delayed Habitat Workshop with Glenelg Hopkins CMA at Warrnambool.
Victorian brown trout genetics
Priority Action No. 6 in the Vic Wild Trout Strategic Plan reads: "VFA to prepare a brown trout management plan to ensure hatchery stocked trout retain wide genetic fitness".
Accordingly, the ATF has been requested to recruit some of our recreational anglers in various regions to collect fin clips from wild brown trout and send them to Brett Ingram for his scientific research. Once the volunteer anglers have been registered, there will be a briefing session to show them the procedure to fin clip the fish and preserve the clips for transportation.
Stocking trials Incubator and fry
Given COVID-19 restrictions, we are unable to involve volunteers at Snobs Creek to load the Jordan Scotty incubators. As a result, ATF and VFA have agreed to postpone incubator trials until next year.
The fry stocking trials will continue this year with five rivers to be stocked each with genetically distinguishable fry. The selected rivers are the Macalister, Upper Dargo & Jamieson, and another one or two streams to be selected by John Douglas & Matt Byrne. One possibility is a recovery stocking for the Nariel, but that is dependent upon an electro survey, plus proof that there there’s amply food in the stream to sustain the fingerlings. We will evaluate the success of the fry stocking trials through surveys next year and following through the Wild Trout Fisheries Management Program.
Our involvement in the Jordan Scotty and first feeding fry stocking trials is ongoing and is described in the strategic plan and forms part of the RFL grant submission. As you are aware, it was considered vital that we acquire wild trout genetics for these trials, and the further good news about this ATF initiative, is that the VFA have approved the acquisition of wild trout ova from Gadens Hatchery and have reached agreement with NSW Fisheries for a contra deal. The DNA of the donors will be obtained as usual for future surveys.
NFA Update - Tim Curmi
Overall operations have been difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions. A number of projects/activities have had to be put on hold including all face to face meetings. However, we continue to develop a number of programs and increase membership.
Macquarie Perch hatchery
- Continue to grow Macquarie perch fingerling on a totally artificial diet. Have trialled a number of different pellets but the fish continue to grow very slowly.
- Around 150 fingerlings held in the hatchery released into the Buffalo River by the VFA on 17th June as part of bushfire recovery.
- Have submitted a new ethics application to the WSI AEC. Will be assessed mid-July
- In partnership with Landcare Australia have successfully applied for a medium sized grant as part of Bushfire recovery to assist in hatchery work this season. Hope to stock any fingerlings produced into the Buffalo River.
- In partnership with Corryong Angling club and the NECMA drafting a bushfire recovery grant for Reveg/habitat work on Cudgewa Creek & support for the hatchery.
- First working bee to prepare hatchery for Macquarie perch breeding scheduled for Sunday 5th July.
- La Trobe University has offered us a new building to house the NFA (Vic) hatchery. Is an old piggery with concrete floors, a central underfloor drain & heaps of overhead power outlets.
- Is around 100m2 compared to around 30m2 in current hatchery, with lots of secure outside area.
- Hope to move Feb 2021 with lease negotiations starting next soon.
- Hope for a medium-term lease as we are still working towards a new purpose-built hatchery adjacent to the Wildlife sanctuary at La Trobe University.
- This new premises will greatly strengthen our hatchery operations and allow us to diversify into other endangered native fish species as well a potentially develop a hands-on educational program.
Southern Pygmy Perch breeding/stocking program
- In partnership with City of Greater Bendigo, North Central CMA, ANGFA (Vic) & Middle Creek Aquaculture developing plans for further release of SPP into waterways around Bendigo and into wetlands in Gunbower forest. Likely to be in late August/September
- Starting to develop plans to stock SPP into other suitable waterways including Winton Wetlands and Lake Nagambie.
Fish Tanks in Schools program
- On hold due to COVID -19 restrictions and uncertainty in school opening.
- Have installed 4 tanks with another 8 planned. With be installed after Covid-19 restrictions lifted.
- In partnership with the GBCMA and local Landcare & angling groups had a planting day scheduled for 5th July. Unfortunately, was cancelled to COVID-19 concerns.
- Hope to have other habitat days after restrictions eased.
Response to Draft Plans
- Have drafted detailed written responses to the following
- 2020 Vic Fish Stock plan
- Use of E-watered wetlands to stock & grow native fish
- Goulburn Murray trade rules review
- All responses should be available from the Native Fish Australia website.
Fishcare Update – Sarah Van Stokrom
COVID is proving difficult for FishCare as it prevents entry to schools. We are hoping to return to some smaller clinics at the start of Spring while adhering to COVID regulations. A COVID-safe plan is being put together and infectious disease training is being undertaken for volunteers and staff.
FishCare is currently recruiting for a new Secretary with Karen moving on at the next AGM. Volunteer numbers have increased over recent months with 17 new people undertaking induction training via Zoom. Most are under 35 years of age.
Regional and State meetings are continuing also via Zoom.
There has been recent development of corporate sponsorship opportunities which will help spread delivery across the State.
Work has been done with land managers in the Ballarat Central Highlands area to be able to gain some access to some larger lakes and dams so school groups can be taken there for trout fishing. These are privately owned but have had significant works done by the CMA and riparian planting and reduction of stock access. The progam will be about stocking, fish habitat and responsible fishing, and showing how riparian planting and fencing off stock can affect water quality.
Questions & Close - Julia Menzies
Meeting closed 12:45pm
Next Roundtable meeting #60 - will be on Friday 18th September 2020 at 10:00am
Location pending Covid-19 update