Fishing sustainability in Port Phillip Bay
A recent report found that fishing activities in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, pose a relatively minor risk to the ecosystem health, when compared to the much greater external (non-fishing) threats such as human population growth, industrial activities, introduced species, land-based pollution and coastal development.
The report found that current fisheries management is adequate to ensure the sustainability of fish stocks in Port Phillip Bay, but highlights that, as recreational fishing will increase in the area in the near future, adjustments to monitoring and management will be necessary to safeguard sustainability.
The study, funded by the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation and conducted by Fishwell Consulting, investigated sustainability issues relating to both commercial and recreational fishing sectors in Port Phillip Bay, and the social factors that underpin tension among the sectors in the region.
“The Ecological risks were identified from both commercial and recreational fishing sectors, and they are likely to change into the future due to new government initiatives.” Says Dr Ian Knuckey, Director of Fishwell Consulting.
Ecological risks from commercial fishing are likely to decline with the contraction of commercial fishing in the region. However, the Victorian Government’s “Target One Million” initiative will result in greater participation in recreational fishing, posing increased ecological risks which will need to be managed.
The social research component of the study identified that the greatest perceived concerns for all user groups were external to fishing and related to the effects of pollution and land-based activities on Port Phillip Bay’s ecology. This finding was consistent with the ecological risk assessment.
The social research also found that most of the tension between commercial and recreational fishing sectors was restricted to a relatively small group of individuals in the western part of Port Phillip Bay, and was driven by perceived competition to access particular iconic species of fish – for example, Snapper, King George Whiting and Flathead.
“This competition was largely related to perceptions of space and impact on fishing success, rather than actual catch results” Say Dr Ian Knuckey “although adequate infrastructure for recreational fishers is an important issue, to decrease conflict around resource access”.
Other issues require careful consideration and monitoring across the sectors, including the discard of undersized catch, interaction with threatened and endangered marine life, and the spread of marine pests.
Potential impacts of external factors on fish stocks and fishing in Port Phillip Bay continue to pose a high risk and are an important ongoing issue.