Policies

We are currently refreshing our position statements on a range issues that are important to recreational fishing in Victoria. As each one is finalised we will publish them here.

Carp Control

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European carp have caused immense ecological damage across Victoria and the Murray-Darling Basin. In some areas, carp now comprise over 80% of the entire biomass.  Carp control, including the evaluation of the carp virus is supported by VRFish. VRFish considers a successful introduction of the carp virus is a critical strategy to support the recovery of our native freshwater fish, build better freshwater fisheries and improve water quality and ecosystem function.

VRFish supports the National Carp Control Program and their current work program to better understand the risks prior to the formal Government decision to release the carp virus. All the best available information and research will be analysed and interrogated by VRFish prior to endorsing a release of the carp virus. Currently, there is no evidence to suggest the carp virus will spread to other species.

VRFish will seek to play a pivotal role to convey factual and credible information and updates to recreational fishers arising from the National Carp Control program, Federal and Victorian Governments and other sources. We will also actively pursue opportunities recreational fishers can become involved in engagement and consultation processes.

Complementary measures should be adopted in the overall plan such as a native fish recovery and stocking plan and restoring habitat. Recreational fishers can play a vital role in supporting on-ground actions, clean-up operations and response.

Southern Bluefin Tuna

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Background

Since the early 2000s, the Southern bluefin tuna (SBT) recreational fishery has seen a resurgence across southern Australia and has provided significant economic stimulus to regional communities. Aspects of the fishery in Victoria continue to rapidly evolve, including near year round availability, access to fish closer to shore and an increasing trend of fish present east of Apollo Bay.

SBT has been internationally overfished and the species is listed in Australia as “conservation dependent”. While the species can still be fished, management is strictly controlled through an approved recovery plan, under the auspices of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). The 2017 stock assessment suggest that the stock remains at a low state, estimated to be just 13% of the initial spawning stock biomass. The interim rebuilding target is 20% of the original spawning stock biomass.

The CCSBT has now mandated that all member countries including Australia must account for all forms of SBT fishing mortality, including from recreational fishing, from within their quota allocation for the 2018-2020 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) block.

Inaction by the Commonwealth Governments to allocate formal fishery access rights to recreational fishers has been a source of frustration and has limited the optimal utilisation of the resource.

VRFish Policy on SBT

VRFish supports the recreational SBT fishery to be managed by open access arrangements and bag limits, in addition to regular surveys to monitor the fishery.

Currently, VRFish does not support changes to recreational fishing management arrangements for SBT without adequate consultation with our sector. Additionally, VRFish does not support Commonwealth intervention using tradable quotas, limited tags, reporting or additional fees. Recreational fishing of SBT in Victoria provides a significant contribution to the Victorian economy and social wellbeing. Therefore, VRFish does not accept management approaches that increases commercial fishing quotas while reducing current recreational fishing catch limits as fair and equitable.

To meet Australia’s new international obligations and contribute to the recovery of the fishery, recreational fishers now have a key role to be responsible and active participants in the management of this iconic fishery. However, supporting the management of this highly migratory and conservation dependant species does present an unprecedented and complex challenge for recreational fishers and VRFish.

In response, VRFish will seek solutions that best balances the current and future needs of Victorian recreational fishers and supports the recovery of the fishery. To effectively fulfil this new and unparalleled challenge, VRFish will undertake a survey of SBT fishers to consult on management objectives and approaches. This consultation will inform and further define our policy position.

VRFish will continue to work closely with State and Commonwealth fishery managers to optimise the utilisation of SBT for Victorian recreational fishers and maintain strong dialogue with other State-based recreational fishing organisations and the Australian Recreational Fishing Foundation (ARFF).

We are committed to showing leadership in our sector by promoting enhanced stewardship of SBT. This includes educating recreational fishers about the recovery of the fishery, supporting best practice catch and release techniques, and provide opportunities for input into management arrangements for SBT.

Yabby Traps

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Background

Enclosed yabby traps (such as Opera House nets), pose a serious threat to our native fauna. Platypus, turtles, Australian water rats (rakali) and other wildlife are regularly observed caught and drowned as bycatch in opera house nets. Platypus are considered “near threatened” by the IUCN and locally extinct in some areas.

Use and possession of enclosed yabby traps in, on or next to public waters in Victoria is currently illegal, however, is permitted in private inland waters and can legally be sold and purchased. As the equipment can be easily purchased both in-store and online, Victorian fishers are often unaware the equipment are illegal to use in public waterways under the Fisheries Act 1995.

Additionally, under the Wildlife Act1975 there are various penalties associated with taking or being in possession of protected wildlife or using prohibited equipment which is up to a maximum of $38,562, and/or 24 months imprisonment.

Enclosed yabby traps are designed as ‘set and forget’ or passive fishing gear and are considered commercial fishing gear in Victoria. If the equipment is lost in our waterways, the net will continue to catch and kill animals in a process called ‘ghost fishing’.

In 2012, Fisheries Victoria tested the soak times and catchability of 6 different yabby catching equipment including opera house traps, pyramid lift nets and hoop nets. The key finding was fishing with pyramid lift nets actively (soak for an hour and lift and do that over time) will catch more yabbies than leaving an opera house in the water or fishing it actively.

Hoop nets and pyramid lift nets are currently legal fishing gear and are considered Platypus safe gear.

VRFish Policy on Enclosed Yabby traps

As a result of the continued impact of enclosed yabby traps on native wildlife and ongoing compliance issues, VRFish supports a ban on the use of all enclosed yabby traps in all waterways.

We promote pyramid lift nets and hoop nets as a responsible, fun and active way to catch yabbies. Victorian fishers are encouraged to immediately stop using any enclosed yabby traps they have in their possession and report all forms of illegal traps to the Victorian Fisheries Authority on the 13 FISH hotline.

VRFish urges wholesalers and retailers to refrain from selling enclosed yabby traps and take a stance to promote pyramid lift nets and hoop nets as an alternative through a discount or swap over scheme.

VRFish supports a nationally consistent approach to the regulation of enclosed yabby traps.

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