Victorian Fishers Motor into Golden Era

Most fishers are probably more concerned with going fishing than politics but you can’t escape the reality the two collide. When state and federal elections come around they are an opportune time for the recreational fishing sector, through peak bodies like VRFish, to ask for reforms and investment that will take the sector forward in leaps and bounds.

Here in Victoria, the Daniel Andrews led Victorian Labor Party was re-elected for a second term in resounding fashion. So, what does this mean for Victorian fishers? As discussed below it’s all good news and we are pleased to report that many of the priorities we have advocated on behalf of all of Victorian fishers has been agreed to in full.

It’s fair to say we have entered a golden era for recreational fishing as this state government ‘gets’ recreational fishing. Not only does it want to grow participation and provide better fishing opportunities but has committed to tackle big issues we have asked for such as boating infrastructure and access which has given us fishos a splitting headache for many, many years. It’s also serious about getting on with the job with the appointment of Jaala Pulford, who has been overseeing the successful delivery of the Target One Million policy initiatives since 2014, as Victoria’s first Minister for Fishing and Boating.

A new $7 million dollar new purpose-built native fish hatchery will be built in the Shepparton area to meet the demand and put an end to our reliance of sourcing fish from commercial fish hatcheries in NSW. Victoria’s only publicly owned fish hatchery is now 71 years old and was established to culture cool water salmonids and is struggling to keep up with demand.

Victorian fishers will be seeing fish stocking on a scale never seen before. A commitment of dizzying 10 million fish will be stocked per annum as of 2022, eclipsing the record 6 million fish stocked in 2017/18. Fishers in suburban areas will soon be able to target native species closer to home with Murray cod, golden perch and silver perch set to be stocked into suburban lakes such as Lilydale, Karkarook, Casey Fields, Navan Park, Roxburgh and Melton. Another batch of Eastern king prawns will be stocked into Lake Tyers.

Our boating infrastructure has fallen into a state of disrepair through poor governance and lack of funding. The situation has come to a head particularly around Port Phillip Bay and Westernport with our fishers forced to launch their boats from sub-standard facilities and put up with long frustrating queues. A strong grassroots ‘Ramp Rage’ campaign demonstrated that only around $3 million annually was being re-invested into boat ramp infrastructure yet $27 million was collected from recreational boaters via our licenses and registration. This Government has committed to allocate the full amount collected to improving facilities and safety through a Better Boating Fund.

The age old proverb ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ is a good description of how boat ramps are managed in Victoria with over 40 different organisations supposedly tasked with providing recreational fishers with essential pieces of community infrastructure. Thankfully, this Government will finally establish a dedicated boating authority and put an end to this chaotic disorganisation. What appears to have been a really bad Victorian invention of having to pay to launch your boat will be also abolished. In some areas, fishers are being slugged over $300 for an annual boat launching pass. There is also a commitment for a ‘blitz’ of new fish cleaning stations across Port Phillip Bay.

Our once great Gippsland Lakes Fishery has drastically declined and flatlined since the halcyon days of 1970s and 1980s. Regrettably, the environmental conditions no longer provide the fish for both a quality recreational fishery and a viable commercial fishery. This Government has responded to a united call by recreational fishers to end commercial netting in the Gippsland Lakes through a compulsory buy-out of the last remaining 10 licences. This will put Gippsland Lakes back on the map as a fishing destination and will boost local tourism and jobs. A larger stewardship role for our fishers is also well accepted, with our fishers keen to develop a recovery plan, review recreational catch limits and kick start long-term fish habitat improvement programs.

Still there are many places we can’t physically get to go for a fish. The convoluted access arrangements for Crown Land along river frontages with grazing licences will be resolved through new legislation that will guarantee access to fishing and camping. This commitment is exciting as it has the potential to revolutionise inland fishing and signifies that our rivers and streams are a community asset that all should have access to. We have many Reservoirs that are stocked full of fish yet we are not permitted to put a vessel on the water to catch them. This Government has committed to guarantee access for canoes and kayaks and small craft with electric motors to more waters including Tullaroop, Lauriston, Hepburn, Barkers Creek, Upper Coliban and Malmsbury reservoirs

Other initiatives will see the State Government advocate to the Commonwealth for no bag limit cuts to Southern Bluefin tuna, the development of a Fishing for All Program to promote fishing among groups with low participation, continuation of the VicKids program, specially designed recreational fishing number plates for our cars and trailers and a Recreational Fishing Tourism Plan to optimise the economic and social benefits of improved fishing opportunities. We are extremely pleased to see $2.5 million will be invested into improving fish habitat in Port Phillip Bay to support projects like the expansion of living shellfish reefs which has been led by our members from the Albert Park Yachting and Angling Club.

This second term of Andrews Labor government promises to take fishing and boating to new heights. As the peak body for recreational fishing, VRFish is excited this State government has embraced the economic and social benefits that recreational fishing provides all Victorians. We look forward to working with them in the delivery and implementation of these initiatives as they will make a profound and positive impact to the quality of fishing for all fishers.

Find out more by visiting the Target One Million – Phase 2 webpage or download Labor’s Fishing and Boating Commitments.

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