STAWELL - The Lake Lonsdale Action Group has commenced its fight to protect a billion dollar industry - recreational fishing.
Group president, Ray Howard, has presented a proposal to the Northern Grampians Shire Council to establish an inland recreational fishing mecca focusing on the four lakes in close proximity to Stawell and the Grampians.
Mr Howard said opportunities existed to develop fishing into a major industry for the region, which would boost tourism.
"The Grampians is a major tourist destination in Victoria attracting more than 720,000 visitors to our region annually," Mr Howard said.
"It is estimated that tourists spend approximately $175 million in the Grampians region each year, which generates a direct economic impact of nearly $224 million. Halls Gap is the hub of Grampians Tourism."
Mr Howard said with four lakes within 20 kilometres of Halls Gap, there were opportunities for cross promotion, which in the end, would bring more visitors and therefore more dollars to the region.
"Recreational Fishing is a billion dollar industry in Victoria with more than 720,000 anglers participating in recreational fishing annually," he said.
"A survey conducted for The Department of Primary Industries by Ernst @ Young for the year 2008/09 estimated that each fisher had an average of 12 fishing trips annually, and an estimated 8.7 million fishing trips were taken by all anglers.
"The activity direct expenditure was valued at $2.3 billion and is to increase to $2.9 billion by 2028/29.
"The industry produced an estimated Gross State Product (GSP) of $825 million in 2008/09, representing 0.3% of the Victorian GSP. The net present value of the recreational fishing industry over the next 20 years is estimated at $10.6 billion.
"The recreational fishing industry also contributed 5,200 jobs in Victoria in 2008/09 (including flow on jobs). An estimated $188.4 million in economic value was contributed by the South West Region, of which we are a part, and created 1200 jobs. The study also indicated that 39.9% of angling was inland fishing with 75% of fishing taking place during summer and spring."
Mr Howard said all lakes in the region were well stocked with fish and there was every indication such a proposal to develop a recreational fishing mecca would work.
"We have Lake Wartook with picturesque scenery located in a mountain range, which is annually stocked with Brown Trout and has a sustainable population of Redfin," he said.
"There are no camping facilities at the lake, but camping is available close by.
"Our other mountain lake is Lake Bellfield, which has a sustainable fish stock of native Blackfish, Redfin and also Native Trout. Victorian Fisheries are currently stocking Lake Bellfield with 10,000 Rainbow Trout and 10,000 Chinook Salmon for the first time. Outboard motors are not permitted on Lake Bellfield and there are no camping facilities at the lake.
"Lake Fyans is another popular scenic lake that is open to boating with yachting and skiing also being popular. Fyans also has a sustainable population of Redfin and is annually stocked with 6,000 Brown and 6,000 Rainbow Trout. Camping is only permitted at the caravan park with good camping facilities available, such as cabins, caravans and powered and unpowered sites.
"The fourth lake is Lake Lonsdale, the people's lake and when holding water, is by far the most popular lake within the Wimmera region."
Mr Howard said he was hopeful Northern Grampians Shire Council would take up the fight to keep water in Lake Lonsdale and prevent it from constantly being unnecessarily drained.