Health of Lakes is paramount — Greens

DEBATE over the Gippsland Lakes should centre on its health, not the future of commercial fishing, according to Greens candidate for Gippsland East Deb Foskey.

Dr Foskey pointed to the Gippsland Lakes Ramsar Site Management Plan, which states the Lakes’ health was “critical to the sustainability of the Gippsland region”.

“This statement puts the issue in its plainest terms and should be the guiding principle for management of the Gippsland Lakes system,” she said.

“Current debates about the future of the lakes have moved away from their health and into conflict over commercial versus recreational fishing.

“With only 10 professional teams licensed to fish in the lakes, the voices of residents who moved here to fish and some of the businesses that profit from tourism are loudest, but while they tout the economic benefits of fishing tourism, they rarely touch on ecological impacts.

“Both recreational and professional fishing deplete fish stocks.

“Both have other environmental impacts which we need to know before making far-reaching decisions.”

Dr Foskey said banning netting would remove commercial fishing from the lakes.

“This will have cultural as well as economic impacts, for instance, on Lakes Entrance, whose professional fishing character distinguishes it from other coastal resorts,” she said.

“Indigenous people have fished the lakes for millennia — they need to be included in any discussions about the Lakes’ future.

“We cannot know the economic and cultural aspects of either fishing method without research.

“The environmental impacts of each fishing method are also unknown, and work needs to be done to identify where the greatest threats to the lakes’ health lie.

“It’s more than sizes of catches; it includes the environmental impacts of recreational fishing on silt jetties and other access points.”

The Greens are calling for a proper assessment of the environmental, economic and cultural affects of current lake usage so any decisions about the Gippsland Lakes’ future are based on evidence.

“If we start with the overall question of how to best manage the lakes and allied activities to improve their health, research can be directed to key issues and future plans can be based on solid facts,” she said.