After a three month campaign by the 780+ members of the Melbourne-based Project Banjo action group, Fisheries Victoria has invited public feedback on a draft Fisheries Notice outlining proposed amendments to regulations pertaining to the killing of rays, skates and guitarfish in Victoria.
The proposed amendments include:
– a reduced bag limit from 5 rays to 1 per person per day
– a 400 metre exclusion zone around man-made structures including jetties, piers, break walls, etc
– a ban on taking rays over 1.5 metres wide
While acknowledging that these changes would be a move in the right direction, the Project Banjo action group maintains that a zero bag limit on rays is well in keeping with public opinion, as supported by over 28,500 signatures on their online petition, ’Stop the Senseless Slaughter of Rays’ (launched in April 2017).
According to the action group’s official response:
‘A zero take position best recognises the value of these animals alive in their natural environments, yielding benefits to both natural and man-made underwater ecosystems where they perform vital filtration services to maintain habitat health, which will benefit all water users. This position also respects and protects the iconic appeal of these animals to locals and tourists, and consequently is likely to benefit local businesses in areas where they are prevalent.
We do not believe that there is sufficient evidence of a large number of anglers who target rays for eating purposes to justify any exemptions which would allow killing these animals in order to keep such a small percentage of their body weight. In fact, many recreational fishers, charter companies and fishing identities have publicly expressed their support of our position in response to what they have personally witnessed.
Arguments that rays are targeted as bait are easily resolved by the prevalence of alternatives. We believe that applying a zero bag limit to all species of rays, skates and guitarfish will help to remove any current confusion that may exist regarding the treatment of rays landed as both ‘wanted’ and ‘unwanted’ catch, providing clearer guidelines against which more stringent enforcement of existing and future regulations can be delivered.
In addition to requesting the Fisheries Notice (which has a 12 month renewable lifespan) be amended to a zero bag limit, we request that this total ban on taking of rays, skates and guitarfish be advanced to become Regulation as a matter of priority. We believe that the excellent precedent set regarding the protection of rays in Western Australia based on strong similar community concerns. Establishing best practice in Victoria in this area would set an exemplary standard for other states and countries to follow in ways that will benefit all key stakeholders, including members of the recreational fishing community.’
Fisheries Victoria have also committed to delivering additional education and enforcement initiatives, including signage on piers where rays are present and mistreatment of these animals is known to occur, as well as making signage available for bait freezers as reminders of best practice.
The public consultation period on the draft Fisheries Notice runs until 14 August. Fisheries Victoria has invited responses to the proposed amendments.