Lakes at ‘crisis point’ — VRFish

VRFISH, the peak body representing Victorian recreational fishers, is calling on all political parties to commit to a comprehensive fish recovery plan to save the iconic Gippsland Lakes fishery.

VRFish chairman Rob Loats said the Gippsland Lakes fishery had reached a “crisis point” and could no longer support both a quality recreational fishery and a productive commercial fishery.

“It’s abundantly clear immediate reforms are warranted to recover what was arguably one of Victoria’s most highly valued recreational fishing destinations,” he said.

VRFish is calling for a fair and respectful compulsory buy-out of the commercial Gippsland Lakes net fishery, a review of recreational fishing management arrangements, habitat restoration and restocking programs.

A meagre 13 tonnes of Black Bream was reported in commercial catch figures last year, making it the lowest catch on record — an alarming trend compared to the record catch of 446 tonnes in 1983-84.

“Our recreational fishers have been observing an ongoing decline in fishing over many years, yet their concerns continue to fall on deaf ears,” Mr Loats said.

Local recreational fishers emphatically oppose the continuation of indiscriminate netting that they say continues to dampen hopes of recovering Black Bream, Dusky Flathead, Estuary Perch and Australian Bass stocks.

“The local economy and tourism industry are reliant on recreational fishing and every day wasted not getting on with the job of improving the quality of fishing is another day caravan parks, petrol stations, pubs and tackle stores are missing out on business,” Mr Loats said.

An economic report commissioned by VRFish noted recreational fishing is worth an estimated $381 million to the wider Gippsland region and supports 2422 jobs.

“Our fishers understand the lakes’ recreational fishery is in jeopardy and we have been overwhelmed with support to voluntarily cut bag limits, increase size limits and get involved with habitat restoration,” Mr Loats said.