Position Statements

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.

Boating Infrastructure

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VRFish has been at the forefront of advocacy to reform and improve recreational boating governance and launching facilities for more than a decade. To achieve this, VRFish has advocated for:

  • Establish one single expertise-based agency to oversee, build and maintain our boating infrastructure
  • 100% return of recreational boating registration and license fees to a Trust Account to build, maintain and improve Victoria’s recreational boating infrastructure.

VRFish commend the Andrews Labor Government for recognising the need for reforms within their Fishing and Boating policy. VRFish believes this is a once in a generation opportunity to fix our boat ramps and recommends the following principles and policies are incorporated with Victoria’s new boating governance structures and processes.

INDEPENDENT BOATING AUTHORITY

The new boating authority created must deliver outcomes for better boating that address the needs and desired outcomes of users and the industry. The governance reform needs to ensure that Government agencies such as DELWP, Parks Victoria and Marine Safety Victoria no longer have direct influence over policy and programs such as they have had in the past. VRFish believes this influence created the current problems we face today.

PRIORITY IS LAUNCHING FACILITIES

The vast majority of registered boats in Victoria are trailerable fishing boats.

Larger trailer boats require formal concrete ramps and significant associated land and waterside infrastructure to enable trailer boats to be used safely and efficiently. Smaller boats are often launched successfully from beaches, lake shores and river banks

Boat launching infrastructure across Victoria varies considerably. There is inadequate capacity to meet peak demand and it is extremely evident in the central region of Victoria (Port Phillip and Westernport) where the vast majority of trailer boats are garaged and used. Our performance target for boat launching is to make sure that delays in launching do not exceed 20 minutes at peak times. Current and new infrastructure must be increased to meet present and future demand.

INCREASE BOAT TRAILER PARKING CAPACITY

The peak capacity constraint at most boat ramps in the central region is trailer parking. Our performance target for the central region is trailer parking capacity to be doubled from about 3,500 to 7,000 over 5 years.

There are opportunities to increase capacity without substantial investment in new infrastructure by utilising existing space more effectively for overflow trailer parking.

This opportunity depends on detailed work at a facility level to identify and gain access to a variety of reserves, existing parking areas and roadside parking. There is the potential for thousands of trailer spaces being made available through this process which will require consultation with the community but relatively little cost to implement.

NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL

Each boat launching facility is unique. Many variables affect how a boat launching facility is designed, maintained and operates. The number of variables is so large that each facility needs to be custom designed to meet user needs. Variables include:

  • Waterside traffic, channels and areas served;
  • Prevailing weather, winds, waves, currents and tides;
  • Waterside infrastructure such as piers, jetties and other mooring options;
  • Landside infrastructure and services such as parking, access to road network, number of traffic lanes, toilets, etc;
  • Numbers, types and sizes of different boats that use the facility;
  • Other users that impact the facility; and
  • Variations of user demand by type, seasonality and times.

Effective design, maintenance and operation of the facility depends heavily on obtaining detailed knowledge of all of these variables prior to making changes or building new facilities.

Even if a facility meets all the design principles, it must be aligned with how the users interact and are serviced by the infrastructure. For example, a lack of lighting and reflective markers and lines will cause it to fail to meet demand if peak usage is pre-dawn. Similarly, no amount of investment in landside infrastructure will help if a lack of dredging prevents water access across all tides.

USER ENGAGEMENT CRITICAL

The users of the facility are the most reliable source of advice and information available to implement a successful facility. VRFish used our network of members to formulate the User Expectations and Improvements for Public Boat Ramps in Westernport and Port Phillip Baysreport in 2010. This network of experienced VRFish members must be utilised to provide bottom up due diligence to identify priorities for improvement. New strategies and process for boating infrastructure must integrate a co-design, bottom-up approach with facility users.

INVESTING IN ENGAGEMENT AND BUILDING CAPACITY

Engaging with fishers on their needs and aspirations for boating infrastructure is critical to the success of the Better Boatingpolicy and election commitments. Currently, VRFish has a funding agreement with Government to represent the views of recreational fishers on issues affecting recreational fishing. From experience, the resources required to adequately deliver upon maintaining, planning and implementing better boating for recreational fishers is a significant and diverse task. VRFish has limited resources and is almost solely reliant on volunteer effort and capacity to address a long list of boating issues across the State. Our view is funding should be directed to VRFish so that at minimum a full-time staff position can be employed to underpin and facilitate an interface between Government, Victorian fishers and industry.

VARIABLE DEMANDS

Victoria’s seasonal weather patterns means there are times where boat launching facilities are totally unused. Conversely, there are times when the peak demand cannot be met. If peak user demands are to be met, peak capacity must be increased.

Casual observers can be severely misled by observing large unused car parks during the off-season. This is frequently the genesis of conflict from other users who wrongly assume that there is plenty of space to allow other conflicting activities or uses.

The best way to resolve this conflict is to make peak overflow parking more flexible. An example is to use nearby public areas such as reserves, sports, public transport and educational parking areas as areas for overflow parking during peak times which are predominantly on weekends and public holidays when other patronage is low.

COLLECT DATA TO INFORM INVESTMENT

There is little or no empirical data on the actual traffic in terms of boats launched at specific facilities. In the absence of this data, planning and prioritisation of investment into boat launching facilities can only be based on anecdotal information.

There is a potential solution to this data gap through the implementation of a network of webcams across boat ramps. This can be staged to begin with the most important ramps in the central region and subsequently rolled out to other regions and smaller facilities across the State.

PROVIDE DATA TO INFORM USERS

Webcams are also vitally important in providing users with real-time online information about congestion and parking before they commit to an outing. This represents the only viable option for peak demand mitigation and is therefore the highest priority to begin to assemble real demand data while reducing the stress of users who can cancel or defer outings when peak demand is being experienced.

VRFish completed a feasibility study on the implementation of webcams in 2011 but subsequent attempts to have this work done by Marine Safety Victoria have so far failed to produce the desired outcome. VRFish offers its assistance to support the implementation of the webcam project as a matter of urgency, including an online platform for fishers.

NEW COASTAL SAFE HARBOURS

A state-wide boating strategy needs to be to add new boat launching facilities in safe harbours at strategically selected points along the Victorian Coast. Typical of locations for these new facilities include Warrnambool, Torquay, South eastern area of Mornington Peninsula, and Cape Conran/Marlo. These new facilities will provide access to significant fisheries that are currently not easily accessed and will also provide safe harbour for vessels transiting the coast. They will also provide bases for additional tourism operators and other users such as emergency services.

INLAND AND ESTUARINE BOAT RAMPS

An enhanced grants program along the lines of the Boating Safety and Facilities Program must be continued to ensure that there is sufficient funding available for inland and estuarine boating facilities across Victoria.

Carp Control

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Background

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 Policy on Carp Control

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.

Commercial Netting in Bays, Inlets and Estuaries

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Background

For recreational fishers, sustainable management of our fisheries encompasses a range of values. Sustainable management relates not only to the direct sustainable management of the fisheries resource, but also broader concepts of ecological sustainability, social sustainability and socially responsible use, economic efficiency, and maximising optimal use and value. These values inform the VRFish position in relation to commercial fishing and netting in Victoria’s bays and inlets.

For over 20 years, VRFish has maintained serious concerns around the impacts of commercial mesh and haul netting in Victoria’s bays, inlets and estuaries. Commercial netting in these sensitive fish nursery areas has the capacity to adversely impact the health of our bays and inlets, fisheries sustainability and the social and economic values associated with fishing.

Areas that have been closed to commercial netting in Victoria have result in a boost to fish stocks and an improvement in the quality of the recreational fishery.

Given the range of pressures currently facing fisheries in Victoria’s bays, inlets and estuaries, VRFish is of the view that commercial netting should be phased out. A reallocation of fisheries resources to the recreational fishing sector represents the most optimal use and value of these fisheries resources and will ensure the quality of the recreational fishing experience.

VRFish Policy

• VRFish supports commercial fishing where it can be demonstrated the activity does not adversely impact on the sustainability of recreational fisheries, including the quality of the recreational fishing experience.

• VRFish is opposed to commercial mesh and gill netting in all Victorian bays and inlets.

• In principle, small-scale bait collection fisheries are supported as long as it can be demonstrated they are being conducted in an ecological sustainable, socially responsible and community conscious manner.

• VRFish supports all initiatives to phase out commercial netting in Victorians bays, inlets and estuaries by Government and should be implemented in a fair and respectful manner.

• VRFish supports the transition from netting to dropline/longline fishing gear provided that these fisheries are managed sustainably using the best available science, under a system of catch caps such as quotas and minimise conflict with recreational fishers.

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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