Submission to Department of Primary Industry Victorian Fisheries from Wynne Hobson
First of all we ask ourselves why is this change on the agendas of the Victorian Fisheries Managers, we sincerely hope secret discussions with AFMA personal, and others not directly involved with the VIT, have not been occurring. It is all looking and sounding very sneaky.
Very strange that Dale Sumner the manager of Lefcol and Simon Boag, SEFIA are so involved in these discussions. I assume it is because the commonwealth fisheries licence holders that also hold a VIT, and have a vested interest in obtaining the state snapper catch. These fishermen have a 50 kilogram buy catch of snapper that is not being policed.
Evidently a deal was done between AFMA and DPI Victoria that if snapper is caught by fishermen east of Wilsons Promontory, with danish seine gear, they may keep this catch but must move away from this area. West of Wilsons Promontory the 50 kilogram bycatch is still enforced.
It appears that certain parties are manipulating the rules to suit their own enterprises.
And no consultation with the wider VIT operators.
This whole process so far has been flawed; proper consultation with stake holders has not occurred.
A DPI employee Bill Lussier made some excuse that he didn’t have the right phone numbers and couldn’t mail out the invitation to all VIT licence holders as he didn’t have the time. This is not the proper way to consult with industry.
The statement in the letter dated 25/1/12 from Mark Edwards A/Executive Director Fisheries Victoria, “Additionally, Fisheries Victoria retained the VIT licence as a means to enable commercial trawl fishers to target prawns, bugs and crabs. It was not intended that VIT licences would be used to target any finfish, including snapper”, this statement is a complete mistruth; I was part of this process in discussions and negotiations as one of the industry representatives with Candy Broad the then minister for Victorian Fisheries and that was never stated or discussed!
If a Normore Grid was introduced it would put VIT finfish fishers out of business.
It has never been trialed in these waters.
Finfish is the biggest portion of the catch in the central sector, that being red mullet, duck fish, K G and sand whiting, flathead and snapper along with squid, prawns, bugs, cuttlefish and crabs, these fishermen in the central sector rely heavily on their finfish catch to be viable. I would assume the western sector has a similar catch to the central sector, except for their large catches of aggregated snapper in 2011.
In the eastern sector the fishermen catch mainly bugs, prawns and crabs.
In the meeting on the 10th February in Lakes Entrance Travis Dowling, DPI stated after speaking with industry that he was 99.9% sure the Normore Grid would not be introduced.
At this meeting industry put the very strong view that they were opposed to output control as it creates dumping of saleable fish.
Please note we are in possession of a taped transcript of this meeting.
It is estimated by the DPI that the amateur catch of snapper is 480 tones per year and note that this is only a rough estimate as no figures are available.
Catch in Victorian waters by licenced Commonwealth fishermen from 2002 to 2011 was a total of 532 tones, and in the same period the catch by VIT operators had been minimal, please refer to graph supplied by the DPI, until 2011 when 3 boats from Queenscliff caught 35 tones of aggregating snapper.
So therefore on these figures fishermen outside the VIT have a much larger impact on snapper stocks.
WHY THEN ARE ONLY THE VIT LICENCE HOLDERS BEING TARGETED BY MANAGEMENT FOR THE WAY THEY CATCH FINFISH
Where in Victoria has the scientific modeling been done and where is the stock assessment for the snapper fishery? This needs to occur before any changes are made. The “precautionary principle” or “we acted on the best advise we had at the time” often used by managers and scientists are lazy men’s tools and should never be used.
Under the OCS arrangement it states that there is no catch restriction on state managed fish.
In the commonwealth managed fishery the fishermen fishing in the VIT are restricted to a trip limit on quoted species.
Latent Effort was also discussed at this meeting. If there is a perceived problem with the number of VIT licences a buyback should be introduced, this could be financed by the state government and introduction of an amateur licence levy.
Amateur fishers represent 16-18% of the Victorian populous who catch their own fish to consume or sell.
The other 82-84% of the populous relies on professional, licenced fishermen to provide their fresh seafood.
Our preferred option for the VIT is a self managed fishery with a code of conduct being introduced, as is in the Corner Inlet Fishery.
As a measure to reduce the bycatch in co-operation with the commonwealth fishery managers, in 2003-04 I trialed in the Victorian finfish fishery, square mesh codends with great success.
The whole consultative process has been flawed by the DPI and should be addressed without delay.
What is behind this recent DPI process? I feel not all the cards have been put on the table by the DPI and industry could suffer a great loss for no substantive reason.
How were the snapper out side Port Phillip Bay actually caught?
A: Did the fishermen set up their 3 boats, at a great expense, with board trawl gear to target these snapper?
B: Or did they use danish seine gear?
With small doors on the nets, and seine ropes for sweeps, as there is no size stipulations on how gear is constructed.
This method was used in the past before CVIT licences were introduced; at that time there was commonwealth board trawl licences and a separate danish seine licence. Some operators used this option to be able to use danish seine gear with a board trawl licence in state waters, as there was no catch limit on quoted species.
I have been fishing Victorian and Commonwealth waters since 1962 and have seen numerous changes to the management of the fisheries. I would like to think in this day and age consultation with all stake holders would be paramount, which at present is very lacking.
Let’s please have honesty and true consultation from all concerned for the successful future of the fishery and our fishermen.