The Greens need to do homework on Gippsland Lakes

David Warren, Gippsland Lakes Recreation Fishing Alliance

LETTER TO THE EDITOR:

DR Deb Foskey’s position in the article headlined ‘Health of Gippsland lakes is paramount — Greens’ is a classic example of ideology forming policy instead of reality.

Dr Foskey needs to refer to the Auditor General’s 2016 scathing assessment of the management of the Ramsar-listed Gippsland Lakes, as well as the CSIRO audit of 1998, to gain some insight into the management and environmental issues during the past 25 to 30 years.

We don’t need to spend another 20 years establishing what we already know.

The Gippsland Lakes Recreation Fishing Alliance has advocated at a federal and state level that environmental issues affecting the Gippsland Lakes be addressed.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester wrote on our behalf to state ministers seeking another audit of the Gippsland Lakes, but was refused on the basis that there were management plans in place and this was sufficient.

A comprehensive independent audit of the Gippsland Lakes, including the artificial entrance as a comparison with the 1998 CSIRO audit, would provide an independent assessment of changes to the dredging depth, with reduced fresh water flows influencing the current situation of the Gippsland Lakes and best way forward.

The conflict between commercial and recreational fishers has been ongoing since the 1860s, and has been manageable while there has been an abundance of fish.

The decline in the Gippsland Lakes fishery, commercially and recreationally, began with European settlement, is well documented and hardly needs further research.

What is needed is a cohesive will to address the issues, but as yet there is no evidence that this will occur.

We challenge Dr Foskey’s assumptions about commercial and recreational fishing depleting fish stocks.

The depletion is a result of many factors, but the commercial sector has never contributed to any plan to return the Gippsland Lakes to abundance.

It is content with harvesting, whereas the recreational sector is paying for restocking and contributing to environmental repair.

The professional fishing character of Lakes Entrance is completely irrelevant to the conflict between the commercial and recreational sectors in the Gippsland Lakes, and for Dr Foskey to believe that an end to commercial netting in the Gippsland Lakes will have a cultural impact is total nonsense.

The commercial trawler fleet does not fish the Gippsland Lakes, and there has been no campaign regarding the offshore fleet.

On the economic side, there are two recent economic reports, one by VRFish and another by Gippsland Ports, detailing the economics of commercial and recreational fishing in east Gippsland. We recommend the Greens read these reports.

The Gippsland Lakes has always had fishing at its core both commercially and recreationally, and the decline in the fishery in the past 30 years is affecting many communities, not just Lakes Entrance.

The greens were the only major party opposed to an end of commercial netting in Port Phillip and Corio Bays, but the Gippsland Lakes fishery has been in decline for decades, commercially and recreationally, unlike Port Phillip and Corio bays.

The problems in the Gippsland Lakes are much more complex, but a continuation of commercial netting is not part of the solution.