Background

The Gippsland Lakes is a very popular boating destination, attracting commercial and recreational power vessels, sailing vessels, PWC’s and paddle craft all taking part in numerous activities including towed watersports, commercial and recreational fishing and sightseeing to isolated locations only accessible by water.

The ocean access entrance supports the maritime industry including offshore and lake charter operations, commercial fishing and offshore support vessels servicing the Bass Strait oil and gas fields.

The confluence of the Entrance Channel, The Narrows, Reeve Channel, Hopetoun Channel and Cunninghame Arm are a strategically important intersection of waterway channels; are the busiest area and carry the most diverse vessel traffic in the Gippsland Lakes.

 The risks

A number of vessel navigational risks had been identified in this area; principally from strong currents, increased and diverse vessel traffic and the conflicting uses in the area that could lead to serious marine incidents with potentially catastrophic consequences. These risks were assessed by agencies including Gippsland Ports, Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV), Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Gippsland Water Police.

To control these identified risks; a Victorian Vessel Operating and Zoning Rule (VOZR) was proposed to create a Vessel Transit Only Zone (TOZ) near the entrance to the Gippsland Lakes covering parts of:

  • Reeve Channel downstream of the entrance to North Arm (The Narrows),
  • The entrance into Cunningham Arm,
  • The eastern entrance into Hopetoun Channel,
  • The Entrance Channel between the training walls, and
  • The waters within the footprint of the Lakes Entrance Bar.
  • After a process of consultation with stakeholders; the proposed TOZ was forwarded to Maritime Safety Victoria, approved by the Safety Director of MSV and is now being established by Gippsland Ports.

Who does this rule effect?

The TOZ will prohibit anchoring, fishing or drifting in the areas above.

Recreational and commercial prawn fishing occurs at night within the area of the TOZ with the highest concentration of prawning activity being in Hopetoun and Reeve channels near their confluence with the Entrance Channel.

Daytime fishing activity and sightseeing also occur within the TOZ area.

As a result of the consultation process, stakeholders requested a modification to the boundary of the proposed TOZ to allow an area of the confluence of The Narrows and Hopetoun Channel adjacent to Rigby Island to be available for prawning and fishing. This request was accommodated in the approved TOZ now being put in place.

Who do I talk to about this change?

If you have questions regarding this TOZ please contact Gippsland Ports on ph. 5150 0500 during office hours.

 

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