2010-2011 Annual Report: Fisheries
Victoria’s fisheries are diverse and geographically extensive. Inland waters support healthy populations of trout and redfin and native species such as golden perch, Murray cod and Australian bass. DPI’s Fisheries Victoria stocks all these fish, other than redfin, to improve fishing opportunities. Yabbies and spiny freshwater crayfish are also popular but are not stocked.
Recreational fishers using hook and line take most of the snapper, King George whiting, flathead, bream, sharks, tuna, calamari and Australian salmon caught in Victoria’s bays, inlets and oceans. Recreational divers also take scallops, abalone and rock lobster.
Victoria’s 600 commercial fisheries produce around 4,600 tonnes of fish from wild catch and 1,700 tonnes of fish from aquaculture worth a total of $65 million each year. Abalone and southern rock lobster account for about $21 million and $14 million of this total respectively.
In 2010-11, commercial fishing production output and value remained relatively consistent with previous years and the industry generally operated in accordance with the regulatory requirements and harvest limits set for the fishery. The most significant achievement was in recreational fishing, where the sector is worth an estimated $2.3 billion annually to the Victorian economy.
DPI’s contribution to the fisheries sector in 2010-11 included managing input controls, such as licensing, fishing equipment restrictions and area/seasonal fishing closures as well as output controls, such as legal minimum lengths and bag limits, and delivering a number of policy, research and extension activities, such as fish stocking.
The state’s aquaculture industry is based on the culture of both freshwater and marine species. In 2009-10 (the latest available data), production was lower than in previous years with a combined aquaculture production of 1,680 tonnes.
Drought and bushfires have reduced freshwater aquaculture production generally over the past decade.
Based on an assessment of the fish stocks and the component that could be sustainably and economically harvested, the Total Allowable Commercial Catches (TACC) for the abalone, rock lobster and giant crab and scallop fisheries were set by DPI for the 2011-12 season as specified in the Fisheries Act 1995.
The quota periods are from 1 April to 31 March of the following year for the abalone and scallop fisheries and from 1 July to 30 June for the rock lobster and giant crab fisheries.
The TACC for abalone fisheries was set at 787.6 tonnes for blacklip (up from 725.5 tonnes in 2010-11) and 7.4 tonnes for greenlip (down from 16 tonnes in 2010-11).
There was a reduction of seven tonnes to 18 tonnes in the giant crab fishery TACC, while the TACC for the rock lobster fishery remained unchanged at 240 tonnes in the western zone and 66 tonnes in the eastern zone.
The Victorian scallop fishery remained closed to commercial fishing. A comprehensive survey in 2009 to determine the abundance and distribution of the highly variable scallop stocks indicated a need to set a zero quota and allow stocks to rebuild over two years.
In relation to managing the abalone fishery at a sub-zonal (reef) level, DPI worked with three abalone associations to develop cost-effective and practical ways to progress towards achieving this and investigated alternative governance arrangements to better enable the industry to make collective decisions on future harvesting strategies.
DPI initiated a program with the Eastern Zone Abalone Association to trial methods of culling sea urchins during commercial abalone diving operations.
The project aimed to assess the feasibility of recovering commercially viable abalone habitat denuded by black sea urchins. The target was an area known as Island Point, a traditionally productive region in Victoria’s eastern abalone fishing zone.
DPI, Seafood Industry Victoria and commercial licence holders considered potential reforms to the management of the eastern zone rock lobster fishery to improve its efficiency and profitability. The department also worked with Tasmania and the Commonwealth Government to identify options to improve the scallop fishery in each jurisdiction, including the potential to integrate management across the Bass Strait fishery.
Seventeen drought affected lakes received almost 190,000 baby trout in 2010-11. DPI released more than 700,000 trout into Victoria’s waterways – a record year – to improve fishing opportunities. DPI research will provide a snapshot of recreational fishing for bluefin tuna in Victoria. Funded with $212,100 from the sale of recreational fishing licences, the research will quantify the catch and regional economic contribution of the southern blue fin tuna fishery and help fisheries managers to ensure sustainability.
The Snobs Creek fish hatchery at Eildon was upgraded at a cost of $1.9 million. This resulted in an increased capacity to breed native species, such as Murray cod, golden perch and the endangered Macquarie perch and trout cod. It also improved trout and salmon production. The work included four new plankton ponds where native fish larvae will be reared to fingerlings before their release into inland waters.
Thirty stainless steel cleaning tables were installed at popular fishing destinations – many adjacent to boat ramps – to enable anglers to easily clean their catch.
DPI scientists developed ‘TroutNav’ – a guide to help anglers target lake trout in summer and winter.
They determined how much habitat was available to trout at particular times of the year and mapped areas of Lake Dartmouth and Lake Hume that are within a trout’s tolerance range. Lake Hume experiences a greater reduction in suitable habitat over summer because it is wide and shallow. The maximum trout habitat is available between May and October.
At Lake Dartmouth, anglers are more likely to find trout at depths between nine and 47 metres during summer and within the top 43 metres during winter. The project was funded by recreational fishing licence revenue.
Several hundred recreational anglers attended 12 regional forums across the state to hear about Fisheries Victoria’s activities and share their ideas about how to improve angling opportunities. Their ideas help to formulate new projects funded by fishing licence revenue. This was the third year that the forums have been run.
At Lake Tyers in East Gippsland, 84 per cent of boat-based anglers and 78 per cent of shore-based anglers surveyed were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘quite satisfied’ with their fishing experience because it was easy to get to, had good boat and shore access and provided a good chance of catching target species.
Black bream and dusky flathead were the major angling drawcards at this location. Tailor and luderick were also a significant part of the boat-based catch during the cooler months of the year.
Diary Angler Program
The dedication of 300 anglers who collect data for fisheries researchers has helped DPI win recognition for its Angler Diary Program. Based at the Queenscliff fisheries research branch, the program involves volunteer anglers throughout the state recording their catch and effort information.
The program was a joint winner of the Victorian Coastal Council’s award for excellence and the winner of the United Nations Association’s excellence in marine and coastal management award.
The Marine Discovery Centre at Queenscliff continued to play an important role in teaching people how to contribute to sustainable fishing, especially members of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) communities. One group of 30 visitors included people from Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Somalia, Burma, Nepal, Libya, Syria, Vietnam and West Africa.
On another occasion, more than 30 members of a Polynesian youth group – aged from four to 25 – got close to creatures that inhabit the intertidal zone before trying some fishing from the Point Lonsdale pier. In return, the group thanked DPI staff with traditional Polynesian music and dancing.
Three Melbourne men were ordered to pay $30,000 after pleading guilty to using a seine net to catch an illegal haul of 832 fish – many of them undersized – near the mouth of the Carrum River. The men, who did not hold commercial fishing licences, were also banned from fishing or possessing commercial fishing equipment for five years.
Two men retrieving a net from the Delatite Arm at Lake Eildon were apprehended by Fisheries Officers and water police after a witness rang the fisheries intelligence reporting line – 13FISH (13 3474). Fish and a net were seized at their camp. Charged with unauthorised use of commercial fishing equipment, they were convicted and fined $1,000 and their seized equipment was forfeited.
DPI seized and destroyed hundreds of illegal fishing nets found in northern Victoria waterways. While many of the nets had been abandoned, DPI prosecuted or issued ‘on-the-spot’ fines of $597 to individuals caught with mesh nets, cross lines and other commercial fishing equipment that cannot be possessed unless specially authorised by DPI.
Victorian Aboriginal Fishing Strategy
DPI commenced implementation of a consultation plan targeting Aboriginal people and communities with an interest in fisheries. The plan is utilising consultation outcomes to develop an understanding and definition of Aboriginal customary fishing in the Victorian context, for future incorporation into the Fisheries Act and into management planning, research, policy and compliance activities. The strategy is part of DPI’s broader Indigenous Partnership Action Plan.