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Office of the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment

ACT State of the Environment 2007

Indicator: Harvesting native species


In the ACT, wild harvesting, or the taking of a natural 'crop' of animals or plants, is limited to recreational fishing and seed collecting. Related activities which may be confused with harvesting include scientific sampling of plant or animals or and management of the impacts of overabundant species, such as culling of kangaroos (described elsewhere in this State of the Environment Report). Illegal activities can also be confused with harvesting.

The use of native species in conservation, restoration and landscaping projects in the ACT has the potential to make an important contribution to the recovery of native ecological communities and maintenance of their ecological integrity. However, the current licensing system in the ACT does not cater for commercial seed collection and requires amendment.

Recreational fishing for native species in the ACT is based mainly on stocking of urban lakes. Local fishing clubs are involved in the stocking of native fish species as part of the ACT Government's fish stocking plan.

There is anecdotal evidence of illegal fishing in areas closed to fishing, in particular, sections of the Cotter and Murrumbidgee rivers and the Cotter Reservoir. It is important that these areas remain closed to fishing to protect threatened fish species.

The supply of hardwood firewood sourced from outside the ACT impacts the region's biodiversity, while burning of wood fuel impacts local air quality, especially during atmospheric inversion conditions in winter. There is evidence of a decline in firewood use in the ACT in favour of alternative heating sources. The ACT Government's Wood Heater Replacement Program has encouraged this decline.

What the results tell us about the ACT

Recreational fishing

Monitoring of ACT fish and crayfish populations is undertaken regularly. However, there are few reliable data on recreational fishers' catches and no creel surveys (interviews with fishers) were undertaken between 2004 and 2007.

The Fisheries Act 2000 is the main legislation for regulating fishing activities in the ACT. Under this Act some ACT waters are permanently closed to fishing to help protect remnant populations of threatened native fish. These closures cover most of the Cotter catchment, upper sections of the Orroral and Tidbinbilla rivers, and the Murrumbidgee River from the vicinity of Angle Crossing to the confluence with the Gudgenby River. Fishing is allowed in the Cotter River only between the Pierces Creek junction and the Bendora Dam wall.

There is anecdotal evidence of illegal fishing in the Cotter Reservoir and the Cotter River between the reservoir and Pierces Creek junction. This is of concern because, even though fishers in the area may be mainly targeting trout, there is clearly a potential impact on the remnant Macquarie Perch (Macquaria australasica) population. Destruction of gates in the 2003 bushfire allowed access to areas formerly closed to public vehicle use. These gates have been restored. There is also anecdotal evidence of illegal fishing in the section of the Murrumbidgee River that has been closed to protect a stocked population of threatened Trout Cod (Maccullochella macquariensis).

Recreational fishing in the ACT is based on stocked native fish, such as Murray Cod (Maccullochella peelii peelii) and Golden Perch (Macquaria ambigua) and alien species that are not stocked, such as Carp (Cyprinus carpio), Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Redfin Perch (Perca fluviatilis). Googong Reservoir is also popular with ACT fishers and is stocked with Murray Cod, Golden Perch, Silver Perch (Bidyanus bidyanus) (see Indicator: Native species ) and the alien Rainbow Trout. New South Wales' fisheries legislation applies to the Googong Reservoir and fishers must have a New South Wales fishing licence.

Since 2000, stocking has been based on a Fish Stocking Plan (ACT Government 2000) which has recently been revised for the period 2008 to 2013 (ACT Government 2008). In the period 2002–04 to 2005–07, approximately 70 000 Murray Cod and 135 000 Golden Perch fingerlings were stocked to ACT lakes and Googong Reservoir. NSW fisheries provided the fish for Googong Reservoir and the National Capital Authority funded the stocking of Lake Burley Griffin. There is a regular fish monitoring program for ACT water bodies and Googong Reservoir. Monitoring results suggest Golden Perch and Murray Cod survive and grow well in these water bodies.

Lack of, or difficulty of access is an important factor in reducing fishing pressure on threatened species. For this reason, current fishing closures should remain and access to closed waters should not be improved as part of water resource or recreational developments.

Commercial native seed harvesting

The use of native species, particularly native grasses, in conservation, restoration and landscaping projects in the ACT has the potential to make an important contribution to the recovery of native ecological communities and maintenance of their ecological integrity. Such projects create a demand for suitable native seed. Where there are existing native ecological communities such as threatened Natural Temperate Grassland or Yellow Box – Red Gum Grassy Woodland, it is important that seed be of local provenance to protect the genetic integrity of such communities.

To undertake such landscaping projects, which may be large in scale such as revegetation along roadworks, Government agencies, community groups and contractors need to have available commercial quantities of seed collected from the local region.

There is a strong desire from commercial seed collectors to be able to collect seed from unleased land in the ACT. The reasons given by contractors for this are: a) there are unleased sites that have been identified as being relatively free of weeds, resulting in a large quantity of seed of high quality; and b) it is often easier to collect from these sites than to enter negotiations with lessees. Currently there is limited seed kept in store, and there is frequently a turn-around time of over a year to collect adequate seed locally for some of the large-scale projects.

The current licensing system in the ACT does not cater for commercial seed collection. To correct this, it would be appropriate to develop an interim policy to allow for limited commercial seed collection on selected unleased sites, pending the completion of the review of the Nature Conservation Act.

Kangaroos not commercially harvested

There is no commercial harvesting of kangaroos in the ACT. The ACT does not have the necessary approved kangaroo management plan under Commonwealth legislation.  Commercial culling is considered, by some, to be appropriate as it could allow for the meat to be used for human consumption or for the per food trade.  Others, who oppose such culling, argue that it would mean the culling of kangaroos to fulfil quotas. Other individuals oppose all killing of animals, including kangaroos

Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) may be culled on rural leases and on land managed by the ACT and Australian governments (see Indicators: Native species and Pest animals). All culling requires a licence issued under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT). Culling of Eastern Grey Kangaroos is undertaken on rural properties for pasture damage mitigation, not harvesting. Sale of the kangaroos or their parts is not permitted, but property owners may legally use the shot kangaroos themselves. Tags provided with the licence must be attached to each kangaroo carcass or to the skin if it is removed.

Licences the ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services issues require culling to be carried out in accordance with the Code of Practice for the Humane Destruction of Kangaroos in the ACT (ACT Government 1994). Table 1 shows permitted and recorded cull numbers for the period 2000 to 2007. Under-recording of numbers shot is suspected. In addition to the data in Table 1, in 2004, a cull of 800 kangaroos was undertaken at the drought affected Googong Foreshores (see Indicator Pest animals). Culling at Googong Foreshores must comply with New South Wales' legislation. See also Indicator: Pest animals for data on kangaroos reported killed in vehicle collisions.

Table 1: Kangaroo culling in the ACT, 2000–07a
Year No. of properties licensed No. permitted to be culled No. reported as culled
2000 25 4020 2496
2001 27 3077 2419
2002 36 3732 2921
Current reporting period
2003 33 3745 2431
2004 28 3812 3218
2005 49 5170 3162
2006 31 4424 2915
2007 31 4101
Plus 3325 for Defence

a The culling period is from 1 March to 31 July each year.
b In 2007, the properties licensed included National Land managed by the Department of Defence. This cull (3325) was not undertaken (see Indicator: Pest animals).
Source: Data from Parks Conservation and Lands, Department of Territory and Municipal Services

Firewood use declines

Total annual firewood use in the ACT is not known, however, data on firewood sales from licensed merchants shows a substantial decline over the reporting period (Table 2) and compared with the previous state of the environment report (reported sales in 2001 were 20,747 tonnes) (ACT Commissioner for Environment 2004). These data do not give a complete figure for use of wood for heating as they do not include privately sourced wood or packaged wood sold at service stations and other outlets.

Factors contributing to the decline in use of wood for heating are likely to be the cost of purchased firewood, relative to other fuels; the installation of other heating sources, such as natural gas in new houses; and the uptake of the government rebate to replace wood heaters with gas or electricity.

Firewood sales are regulated in the ACT. Firewood merchants must be licensed and are required to report annual sales; in 2007 the ACT had 24 licensed firewood merchants. Other requirements include sale by weight only, supply of seasoned wood, offering of mixed loads, and information to customers on types and sources of wood being supplied.

The biodiversity impacts of firewood use are experienced mostly outside the ACT, especially in western New South Wales from where most non-plantation (hardwood) timber for firewood used in the ACT is sourced. Increasing scarcity and transport distance contributed to the rising cost of firewood, making it less attractive as a heating source.

Table 2: Firewood sales by licensed merchants in the ACT, 2003–06
Firewood sales 2003 2004 2005 2006
Total (tonnes) 17 971 12 319 13 981 12 932
sold to users (tonnes) 15 854 7094 6836 6998
sold to merchants (tonnes) 930 47 106 87
sold to users (tonnes) 1087 640 668 662
sold to merchants (tonnes) 100 0 0 0
sold to users (tonnes) 0 4406 6371 5165
sold to merchants (tonnes) 0 132 0 20
Types and percentages of annual sales
Non-plantation (%) 93.4 58.0 49.6 54.8
Plantation (%) 6.6 5.2 4.8 5.1
Salvaged (%) 0.0 36.8 45.6 40.1
Source regions and percentages of annual sales
Western NSW (%) 56 56 48 49
ACT (%) 31 3 41 32
South-eastern NSW (%) 12 19 11 13
Other (Victoria, N-E NSW) (%) 1 22 0 6

Note: * Timber Wood salvaged after forestry operations
Source: Data from Department of Territory and Municipal Services

Success of Wood Heater Replacement Program

Burning of wood fuel impacts adversely on the air quality in the ACT, especially during atmospheric inversion conditions in winter (see Indicator: Air emissions and Air quality (outdoor)). The Wood Heater Replacement Program began in 2003 and provides incentives for householders to convert from wood heating. Six hundred rebates have been paid since the program started, at a total cost of $377,800.

Initially, the program included replacement with electricity or gas, but for the last two years has been for gas installations only. The ACT Government contributed $225,000 for 2003–04 and 2004–05, while ActewAGL has exclusively funded the program for 2005–06 and 2006–07 at a cost of $152,800. The rebate for the last two years has been set at $600. The Environment Protection and Heritage section of the Department of Territory and Municipal Services administers the program. The number of conversions under the program is shown in Table 3.

Before receiving the rebate, recipients must provide written evidence that the wood heater has been removed and disposed of at a licensed recycling facility, and that the new system has been purchased and installed.

Table 3: Number of conversions under the Wood Heater Replacement Program, 2003–04 to 2006–07
Year No. of recipients Period of operation of program
2003–04 172 7 months (1/12/03 to 30/6/04)
2004–05 189 whole year
2005–06 144 10 months (1/7/05 to 31/12/05; 1/3/06 to 30/6/06)
2006–07 95 4 months (1/3/07 to 30/6/07)

Source: ACT Government

Licence to take native animals required

Under the Nature Conservation Act 1980, a licence is required to take or kill native animals or pick native plants in the ACT. Keeping, selling, importing and exporting animals (native and exotic) for private purposes also requires a licence (see Table 4), except for animals that are exempt from this requirement. Licence requirements and a list of exempt animals are contained on the Department of Territory and Municipal Services website at .

Scientific licences are issued where there is an expected future benefit for wildlife management, scientific knowledge or education.

Table 4: Licences to keep, export, import, sell and kill native animals in the ACT, 2003–07
Type of licence No. issued* Comment
Keep 503 Number is less than previous state of environment reporting period due to introduction of 5-year licences
Import 209 Number in each category is less than previous period due to streamlining of some permits to include keep, import, export and sell conditions in one permit, for frequently trading non-commercial hobbyists
Export 13
Sell 46
Take 210 Primarily scientific purposes
Kill 23 Primarily scientific purposes with some permits relating to kangaroo management

Note: * Refers to new licences issued in the reporting period
Source: Source: Data from Parks Conservation and Lands, Department of Territory and Municipal Services

Data sources and references

ACT Commissioner for Environment 2004, Indicator: Harvesting Native Species, State of the Environment Report 2003, Australian Capital Territory

ACT Government 1994, Code of Practice for the Humane Destruction of Kangaroos in the ACT, Canberra).

ACT Government 2000 Fish Stocking Plan for the Australian Capital Territory (Environment ACT, Canberra).

ACT Government 2008 Fish Stocking Plan for the Australian Capital Territory 2008–2013 (Department of Territory and Municipal Services, Canberra).

TAMS Terrirtory and Municipal Services, Environment Protection Authority

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