Uncertain future

Uncertain future

As the date of the Victorian Government’s ban on commercial fishing in the Gippsland Lakes draws closer, residents of Lakes Entrance may be wondering what impact this might have on their town.

Greens candidate for the federal seat of Gippsland, Deb Foskey, said that the government’s decision was made without consulting the professional fishing community and it has mounted no strong arguments to support its decision.

“The decision to stop commercial fishing in the Lakes was a surprise to the most affected people and made only days before last year’s state election,” Dr Foskey said.

“Only now is the government talking to professional and recreational fishing people to develop a transition program.

“The professional fishing industry has shaped the character of Lakes Entrance, making it different to other coastal towns who depend solely on tourism. Its metamorphosis into a tourist destination is focused on recreational fishing.

“Now the recreational fishermen have a stronger voice with government than the industry, who supply prawns and fish to those who cannot catch their own.”

Dr Foskey said at the time of the ban’s announcement, East Gippsland Greens raised concers that the ban on commercial fishing would do little to address the Lakes’ problems and suggested consulting the large body of research on the Lakes to ensure environmental aspects guided decision-making.

“At the time I said, ‘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. Putting water quality at the centre of management of the Lakes and rivers will ensure that they provide an economic resource for the long term. ‘Wise use’ can be determined with evidence’.

“Following the decision, we await a program to restore the Lakes and to enact the RAMSAR management plan while also giving attention to the silt jetties and access roads which are eroded by the vehicles of recreational fishermen and other drivers.

“The recreational fishing industry is not regulated like the commercial fishery and, while we like to think that all fisher people love the Lakes and put their health first, there is no guarantee that this is so.

“We wish transitioning professional fishing families all the best in whatever comes next in their lives and call upon governments to support them, understanding that fishing is how many of them have spent their working lives and that the next generation will not be able to enter this profession.”

Dr Foskey said while she hopes the end of the professional fishing in the Lakes will mean healthier rivers and lakes, she is skeptical that this was the motivation for the State Government’s decision.

She said the Greens will be advocating in the next Parliament that the Federal and State Government put more resources into monitoring and restoring the Lakes and the rivers that feed it.

“This in turn will attract more tourists and create local jobs in tourism and restoration projects,” she said.