In an ABC Radio interview on Thursday 28th Lynton Barr May spoke of the very low fish stocks in the Gippsland Lakes. Barr, who is the Editor of the monthly ‘Around the Jetties’ stated:
“I have just received a copy of the Gippsland Lakes Commercial Catch for 2013/14 and they would seem to confirm continuing decline in the fish stocks of key commercial species in the Gippsland Lakes. .. the commercial catch between 2002 and 2009 apart from the flood year of 2007 averaged 35 tonnes per annum so the 2013/14 catch returns to the low average. In context this average should be compared with the average catch in the late 1980’s of 200-270 tonnes per annum.”
And that “particularly disturbing is the continuing decline in the commercial catch of dusky flathead. The decline is only small from 9 tonnes to 8 tonnes in 2013/14 however the tonnage in 2005/6 was 48 tonnes and [the species] has been in consistent decline since that date. As you would be aware the large female breeding flathead (ie over 55cms) are not protected from commercial netting and this must have a long term effect on the stock level.”
Ross Scott, Gippsland Lakes environmentalist, commented that the increased salinity from the deepened entrance to the Lakes had a catastrophic effect on the bream breeding process as “bream could no longer spawn throughout the lake chain as basically their eggs would float. They were forced to run up the rivers to spawn where they were concentrated and slaughtered by professional fishermen.” Scott added that he believed “that the current mercury investigation/study is going to have big problems catching fish in representative locations around the lakes, as they simply wont be there.”
Barr continued “I think it fair to say the decline in key species in the Gippsland Lakes is in continuing decline and this fact is supported by the commercial statistics of the catch for 2013/14…another key figure from these statistics is the total catch excluding carp is now at an all time low and from 2010/11 the total catch has been around 200 tonnes. Up until 2006/7 the total annual catch of all species in commercial nets was around 400 tonnes of fish per annum.
He concluded that “the ten commercial fishermen [need to be] bought out before the decline in the Gippsland Lakes fish stocks become a total disaster.”
The interview can be found here http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-05-28/fish-from-the-gippsland-lakes/6503510