Even though the State election is now done and dusted, it is still important to continue to negotiate and consult with the government to address the issues that hopefully will ensure a better future for freshwater fishing in Queensland.
The following are some of the more priority issues that FFSAQ submitted to all the political parties before the recent State election.
FFSAQ’s mission is :
To develop freshwater recreational angling opportunities by stocking impoundments with suitable native fish species.
To promote and enhance a sustainable freshwater fishery in natural rivers and streams.
To promote, protect, and safeguard the interests of freshwater recreational anglers.
As per our mission FFSAQ has developed the following policies for political party consideration.
The current freshwater fish stocking program is conducted under the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Program. Prior to the government’s Living the Lifestyle Policy, there had not been any increase in funding for the acquisition of fingerlings which had remained at $168,000 per annum for quite some time. Currently, the total expenditure per year for the Recreational Fishing Enhancement Program is estimated to be about $400,000. The Lifestyle Policy has injected an extra $550,000 per year but only for three years. FFSAQ welcomes this initiative.
The holding of Freshwater Workshops around the State has in recent years declined markedly. These workshops are paramount to maintaining good communication with stocking group members as well as providing current information. FFSAQ is prepared (at Fisheries cost) to again arrange and conduct six regional workshops across the state. FFSAQ also believes that there should be a state-wide workshop. Maybe these could be implemented alternately on a yearly basis.
A Government commitment that funding for fingerling purchases for stocking will remain at the current level of the 2008-2009 year ($268,000), and that the total funding allocation for the RFEP be $950,000 per year (including Lifestyle Policy funding). FFSAQ endorses the continuation of The Queensland Lifestyle Policy funding.
The Government implemented Stocked Impoundment Permit (SIP) program has now 32 impoundments on the schedule. The SIP has the full support of FFSAQ, provided that the conditions under which the program was developed, are strictly maintained. These being:
1. Funds raised must go into a separate Fisheries account with all net monies being contributed to impoundment
2. Fisheries management fees must be restricted, with an absolute maximum of no more than 25% of gross revenue collected, being allocated towards administration. In other words, if management fees are only 15%, then 85% of revenue raised is to be directed towards stocking.
3. That the collection and distribution of funds must be transparent and overseen by a Freshwater MAC subcommittee where stocking associations and community interests are adequately represented.
4. A commitment from the government that revenue raised from the SIP scheme is not seen as justification to decrease the level of funding for the remaining 40 (approximately) stocking groups not incorporated in the scheme.
The issue of holding over unspent allocations by stocking groups where it is impractical or responsible to acquit, must be adequately addressed.
A commitment from government that the SIP scheme will continue to be endorsed and supported, under such conditions, which it was established. And that more appropriate arrangements be considered immediately for the holding over of unspent funding allocations.
SEQWater, and the corporatisation of SunWater has caused considerable concern amongst stakeholders that future access to recreational fishing will/may require the payment of access fees, or in some cases access will be denied all together. FFSAQ perceives this to be perhaps the single most serious threat to the future development of freshwater recreational fishing in Queensland.
FFSAQ does not believe that the corporatised bodies themselves, are necessarily to blame. Prior to corporatisation these bodies have excelled in providing access and top quality recreational facilities. However these corporatised entities have now been structured solely to administer the sale of water, with no provision in their charter to maintain access or recreational facilities. Governments need to have policies in place to address the funding of access and facilities on all waters regardless of ownership or control. Where once these storages were traditionally taken for granted as public facilities, and as such expected generally free access, this is now no longer the case.
A commitment from the government that it recognises it’s community responsibility and obligation in maintaining and enhancing the existing level of free access and the provision of appropriate facilities on all waters regardless of ownership or control.
In times of drought water storage operators have on occasions drained stocked impoundments to a level below what is generally considered to be adequate for the survival of fish populations. Every time such an action is contemplated, there is widespread community concern that attracts wide media coverage. The problem is the failure to recognise the fact that there are other stakeholders apart from irrigators.
This issue will continue until government has a commitment to setting minimum draw down levels for all impoundments and develop appropriate management strategies in consultation with all stakeholders. A process to draft negotiated stakeholder positions began sometime ago but now again appears to have stalled.
A government commitment to ensure that minimum water storage levels in stocked impoundments are legislated to be compatible with the adequate survival of fish populations. The determination of such water levels and the drafting of negotiated operational strategies to be established by community consultation.
FFSAQ fully supports the Freshwater MAC consultative process. Freshwater MAC has been well managed, very effective, and operating with a high degree of consensus amongst all stakeholder representatives. Unfortunately, FWMAC meetings have been drastically curtailed, to an extent that the process is now practically unworkable. This is a poor reflection on the present government’s election commitment to improve and expand its consultative process. Presently, non-government organization members of MAC’s, are not compensated for attending meetings.
A commitment from the government that the Freshwater MAC process will be fully endorsed, supported, and funded, and that Freshwater MAC meetings be held at least once every three months. That non government member representatives be fully compensated for attending meetings.
Exotic pest species like European carp and tilapia pose a serious threat to native freshwater fish. Unfortunately both of these species continue to spread. The present government has made considerable progress in addressing this problem. An Exotic Pest Fish Strategy has been developed. However, implementation of the strategy, in practical terms, has not been adequate to curb ongoing infestations. Any implementation program will need to be adequately funded and staffed, to ensure that the undertaking of these strategies is successful.
A government commitment to adequately staff and fund the Exotic Pest Fish Strategy implementation program. The funding must be committed on an ongoing basis until practical eradication or control is achieved.
Presently, resources and staffing levels within Fisheries are inadequate to provide regular and adequate monitoring of the developing freshwater stocked fisheries, even at present levels of stocking. The implementation of the Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme will result in a significant increase in the numbers of fingerlings stocked. This enhancement must be adequately monitored and managed to ensure that the community contribution is maximised.
A government commitment to increase the monitoring of Queensland’s stocked waters, commensurate with the expansion of the Stocked Impoundment Permit scheme.
FFSAQ opposes any form of commercial harvesting of freshwater fish. It believes that the freshwater fish resources are fragile and that any commercial harvesting is ecologically unsustainable.
A government commitment that no commercial harvesting of fish and crustacea will be permitted to be undertaken in freshwater.
FFSAQ supports increased levels of research into all aspects of inland freshwater fisheries including:
1. Research into the rehabilitation of Queensland’s freshwater rivers and streams.
2. Research into the biology and habitat requirements of native species so that stocks can be sustainably managed.
3. Research into stocking, ie. optimum size of fingerlings, when to stock, where to stock (deep water or shallows) etc.
4. Research into the production of other angling species that have freshwater impoundment stocking potential (jungle perch, mangrove jack, mullet, and tarpon, etc.)
A government commitment that adequate resources will be provided to ensure that research will be able to be undertaken, commensurate with both the sustainability of our wild fishery, and the maintenance and improvement of the stocked fishery. The research arm of Fisheries needs to be reinstated within the Fisheries Department to provide a more cohesive working arrangement.
FFSAQ supports an increase in policing resources to freshwater. In spite of the increase in Boating patrol officers in the south there is still a strong perception in the freshwater community that the level of service is inadequate. Some community groups do not see Boating Patrol officers from one year to the next. The very nature of our inland fishery, such as the vast geographical landscape, and it’s remoteness, necessitates the need for a higher percentage per capita, for staffing levels of Patrol Officers, than the more consolidated marine fishery.
A government commitment to increase funding and staffing levels for surveillance and enforcement of the freshwater fishery in inland waters. – FFSAQReads: 2220