CONCERNS about fishers causing environmental damage in the Balcombe Creek estuary at Mount Martha are being investigated, following complaints about people leaving rubbish, trampling the bushland, and using the area as a toilet.
One resident who walks the estuary boardwalk daily said groups of visitors from Melbourne were fishing at the estuary every day, causing significant damage by walking through the wetland areas to fish and relieve themselves in the bushes.
She said she was also concerned about “unsustainable” fishing and claims she had witnessed fishers carrying away large bags of adult and juvenile fish.
“I have tried to say something to them but they just abuse me and yell,” she said.
The issue mirrors a similar problem at Martha Cove, Safety Beach last year (“Petition to tackle fishing ‘problem’ at marina” The News 26/9/22).
That issue also involved groups of fishers from Melbourne, using the bushes around the cove as a toilet and leaving rubbish.
After a petition was presented to the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council by Mount Martha residents, representatives from the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Change met with the Martha Cove Owners Corporation and the council. That meeting heard that the owners corporation was responsible for preventing all public access to the lease area that could cause danger or affect safety, and for enforcing its environmental management plan/body corporation rules.
The council cannot make local laws over the marina and has no enforcement powers over fishing, which is not illegal. Under section 173 of the rules governing the marina, the marina is required to provide public access.
Spokesperson for the volunteer Balcombe Estuary Reserves Group, Angela Kirsner, said it was very concerned about people trampling the estuary’s sensitive environment and claims of over fishing.
She said the taking of undersized fish and people walking off the boardwalks was a “long standing” problem that would “impoverish the creek”, lead to tracks being made, sedimentation and erosion of the banks.
“There have been signs erected showing the legal size of catch, but they get ripped down almost straight away,” Kirsner said.
“It’s a fragile environment and we have volunteers who spend a lot of time and effort to keep it in good health, so we need to publicise this and get people caring.”
The mayor Cr Steve Holland said the council was concerned about recent revelations about people fishing in the Balcombe Estuary and causing environmental damage.
“Council is concerned if there is environmental damage happening along the Balcombe Estuary boardwalk in Mount Martha and we will actively investigate any reports,” he said.
“I encourage people to come forward and let us know if they have any information about this issue.”
Fisheries officers from Mornington will also increase visits to the Balcombe Estuary to ensure fishing regulations are being followed.
A Victorian Fisheries Authority spokesperson said the peninsula was “synonymous with fishing and boating” and offered opportunities for families.
The bag limit for bream, the variety most popular at Mount Martha, was 10, while the limit for mullet is 40 a person.
Anyone who suspects illegal activity can call 13 FISH (13 3474) to speak to fisheries officers.