Lakes fishery is ‘at the point of collapse’

Craig Holland, fishermen, Loch Sport


I AM disappointed to learn that the LNP will only offer a voluntary buyback of the final 10 Gippsland Lakes commercial fishing licences.

Its recent announcement also stated that “The offer of a voluntary buyback has been called for by both commercial and recreational fishing sectors”.

“While the Andrews government has failed to act for four years, the LNP have listened and will deliver for the benefit of all,” the announcement reads.

“Only an elected LNP government will partner with the community and industry to ensure the sustainability of the Gippsland Lakes fishery for generations to come.”

Having attended several community meetings organised by Gippsland Lakes Recreational Fishing Alliance, I am yet to meet any recreational fishermen who have called for a voluntary buyback solution.

While some of the 10 current commercial licence holders might appreciate such an offer, the remainder seem adamant that they should be allowed to continue unfettered, claiming inter-generational rights to the fish that remain.

Surely it is self-evident that the fish stocks are critically low, based on VFA reported commercial catch volumes.

During the 1990s, the average catch was 240 tonne of black bream per year.

This time last year, it fell to an unsustainably low 12.9 tonnes.

Since the last election, the ecological health of the lakes and wetlands has continued to deteriorate, and the diversity and abundance of fish stocks has done likewise.

The LNP openly criticises the Labor Party for “doing nothing” during the past four years.

Let me say how impressed I am with its Target 1 Million project.

Almost every day I am seeing new deliveries of its policy — habitat remediation, fishing platforms, massive restocking achievements, improved access to waterways, children’s education promotions, retraining and redeployment of former commercial operators, and so on.

The Labor Party, if re-elected, has committed to invest every dollar raised from recreational fishing licences back into facilities for the benefit of recreational fishermen, and thus the local businesses who provide their accommodation, meals, fuel, boating supplies, and so on.

And what’s more, it has recently announced a similar commitment to invest all boat registration fees back into boating facilities, including the removal of boat launching and ramp parking fees.

Quite frankly, the Labor Party, as a result of its absolute commitment to promote recreational fishing all around Victoria and its many achievements in delivering on this commitment, has left the LNP ‘dead in the water’, so to speak.

The LNP says it will deliver for the benefit of all. That will not happen for as long as commercials netters are allowed to continue to pillage the lakes as they have for many years.

For as long as fishing productivity continues to decline, no one will benefit — not the recreational fishermen, not the local businesses, not the local community and at the end of the day, not even the remaining commercial netters.

The once diverse and abundant Gippsland Lakes fishery is at the point of collapse, and needs immediate and vastly improved management.

The overwhelming desire of those who have shown support for the campaign is for all three tiers of government to get their heads together as a matter of urgency and to deliver the following outcomes:

• Urgently end the commercial netting of fin fish in the Gippsland Lakes;

• Reduce the recreational catch bag limits and introduce slot limits;

• Conduct a comprehensive environmental and ecological survey of the wetland to accurately assess the current health of the lake system and to create a reliable and unified benchmark against which the consequences of all future management decisions can be accurately measured; and

• With the benefit of the findings of such a survey, determine the management priorities and resources needed to save this valuable wetland.

In the LNP announcement, they say they have listened.

Well they may have, but I don’t think they have heard.