Effects of haul seining in Victorian bays and inlets
The haul seine fishery is a traditional fishery which has been sustained over several generations. However, the simultaneous expansion of the recreational fishing sector and the introduction of new commercial fishing methods has brought about increased fishing pressure on the fish stocks. The recreational sector is aware of the problem and there have been many calls for a ban on commercial fishing in some areas which has resulted in the Premier's announcement for a review of commercial fishing methods. A media release in November 1996 by the peak body VRFish contended "that if commercial netting practice is allowed to ontinue in the inshore areas, major damage will result to the long term sustainability of the Victorian fishery" and emphasised "it is now time to take action on the problem of netting in the inshore areas of Port Phillip Bay and Westernport." The claim that there is a problem with commercial netting needs to be tested, qualified and quantified in order to develop and evaluate a range of management solutions. While the traditional haul seine fishermen have introduced a code of practise to limit fishing pressure and restrict fishing methods, there is an urgent need to collect more detailed scientific data to show that these are effective and to determine whether there is a problem with commercial netting. There is also a need to evaluate the potential of new fishing technology which have been developed for other fisheries in Australia and other countries which have been shown to improve survival rates of undersize fish and to minimise handling time by commercial fishers. These "environmentally friendly" technologies range from more appropriate netting materials and mesh sizes to square meshed escape panels which allow the escapement of juvenile fish. The proposed project follows recent studies in South Australia and New South Wales. The research is intended to support the initiatives taken by commercial fishers in their code of practice and to provide the biological information required to improve management plans for the commercial haul seine fishery in bays and inlets. It is intended to address the concerns expressed by the recreational fishing peak body in a vision statement that " a detailed study of the effect of netting and long lining in the bays should be conducted as a matter of urgency ". This has also been supported by the recently formed Fisheries Co-management Council. Draft fishery management plans for Port Phillip Bay, Corner Inlet and Gippsland Lakes are currently being developed. Common to all these plans are objectives of minimising the bycatch of unwanted fish and damage to fish habitats. In order to meet these objectives, more information is needed on the current fishing gears and practices and their effects on juvenile fish and seagrass. There is a need to gain public acceptance of haul seining in bays and inlets as an ecologically sustainable method of harvesting fish. This three stage project would help to bring scientists, commercial fishermen, regional staff and managers together in a close working relationship to deal with this important issue.
1. To describe the seine nets, fishing methods and fishing boats used in the bays and inlets of Victoria.
2. To assess the effect of haul seine fishing methods on the fish stocks and habitat in bays and inlets.
3. To determine the survival of fish captured and released from haul seine nets used in the major Victorian bays and inlets.
4. To assess the impact of haul seine nets on seagrass beds in Port Phillip Bay and Corner Inlet.
Principal Investigator: Ian A. Knuckey, Alexander K. Morison and David K. Ryan