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Message from the VFA

Welcome to the 8th edition of ‘The Catch’, the newsletter where we celebrate the Victorian seafood industry and its contribution to the Victorian community.

Many Australians are facing real and difficult challenges at the moment, it is also important that we highlight the many good things we are continuing to collaborate on between VFA and the Victorian seafood industry.  Together we are developing a new Victorian Aquaculture Strategy, Joanne Butterworth (SIV) showing fantastic leadership in this space (read more about this project below). In the last few weeks, we have also seen hook and line caught beautiful fresh gummy shark for sale direct to the public at Mallacoota. Sustainable, delicious, local flake enjoyed by consumers. A review of the Rock Lobster Fishery Management Plan is also kicking off, so watch this space for updates.

Joanne Butterworth-Gray, Chair of Seafood Industry Victoria, has kindly answered some questions for The Catch industry profile this quarter. Being relatively new to the position Joanne has hit the ground running and has always represented the industry with strength and passion. We hope that this profile helps you all get to know Joanne a little better.

This edition also includes information about Stay Afloat Australia, a national mental health pilot program for the Australian seafood industry. We encourage all industry members to read and consider the options available to them through this pilot program.

As the pandemic continues to disrupt and impact peoples’ lives and businesses, we would like to reassure all our stakeholders that the VFA is still conducting business-as-usual, and our staff is available, as always, to answer questions and have a chat.

We look forward to continuing the collaboration between VFA and the Victoria seafood sector to deliver excellent fisheries and aquaculture outcomes for all Victorians.
Gail Owen                                                       Travis Dowling
Chair                                                               Chief Executive Officer

Port Phillip Bay urchins in demand 

VFA staff were thrilled to catch up with Josh Cahill and Kaz Bartaska at Altona pre-lockdown time to see some of what is happening in the urchin fishery.  The roe looked amazing and the live catch sold directly to the public with people from all walks of life paying for this seafood delicacy. It’s fair to say this isn’t something you would see a few years, so well done to Josh for helping create this new market.
Jo Klemke from the VFA with Josh Cahill, commercial urchin diver  
Kaz Bartaska, Josh Cahill, and Kieth Found with a nice haul of urchins from the Bay.

Stay Afloat – Seafood Industry Mental Health & Wellbeing

At any point in time, 1 in every 5 Australian’s are experiencing mental illness.  Research has shown that the numbers may be even higher amongst our seafood community
Stay Afloat Australia is the national mental health pilot program for the Australian seafood industry, run by Seafood Industry Australia, in partnership with Women in Seafood Australasia. It has been designed to help break the stigma associated with poor mental health, connect industry with existing local services, and engage with primary healthcare networks regarding the local industry’s operations and unique stressors our fishers face. The program has three main focus areas:
Trusted Advocates in community - The program has identified trusted members within local communities that are connected to the seafood industry. These members have been equipped with Mental Health First Aid Training and tools and are available for members of the seafood industry to reach out to for positive support.

Mental Health Education and Training – Mental Health First Aid Courses have been made available for all members of the seafood industry. The courses are now available online and provide training to recognise signs and symptoms of mental health issues and offer tools to provide support.
Community resilience grants - $2,000 grants are available for seafood industry members across Australia to go towards any event that gets community together, connected, and raises mental health and wellbeing.
Jo Marshall (Program Manager) has kindly made herself available to attend VFA industry forums to raise awareness of the program. The Mental Health First Aid Training has also been made available to VFA staff.
The Stay Afloat program is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, Mental Health Program.
For more information please contact Program Manager – Jo Marshall on 0408 008 344 or

Seafood Industry Member Profile

Joanne Butterworth-Gray is the Chair of the Seafood Industry Victoria Board. Joanne has kind answered some questions for The Catch to provide insight into her experience and passion for Victorian seafood.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a down-to-earth person with strong principles around justice, kindness, and accountability. I have raised half a dozen kids in regional Victoria, and I am very proud of the adult people they have become. My husband and I have run several agribusinesses in Gippsland across dairy, beef, sheep and horticulture, plus agritourism. From being on the land and having a customer-centric tourism business for 14 years, my career took a different turn when I became the first female CEO of Victoria’s wine industry. After 5 years at the helm, I changed direction again and worked with the Victorian Government, delivering reform programs and economic development partnerships. I left government in 2017 to start my Board career, and now participate on, or Chair a range of Boards. 

What is your favourite seafood dish?
Scallops ……… Victorian scallops fresh out of Lakes Entrance Co-op marinated in garlic, ginger, lemon zest and my special red chillis that I grow, then lightly toss them in butter till they are plump. Serve them with salad or chips. Yum!!

What do you see at the Victorian seafood industry’s greatest strengths?
The history of families that have built a successful and sustainable industry. The resilience of the people that have remained in the industry since the removal of netting in Port Phillip and Westernport Bays and Lakes Entrance. The young people who leading the way with innovation and adaptive fishing practices and technology. The quality of our seafood – there is nothing better.

What do you see as upcoming opportunities for the Victorian seafood industry?
To tell the story of our sustainable fishing businesses and their produce to 6 million Victorian citizens and encourage them to “choose Victorian”.

What does an average day look like for you?
Exercise first thing (I have significant health issues and rely on flexibility and strength to keep me well and happy). As a morning person, I try and do my toughest thinking straight up – answer those worrying emails and get prepared for a day of virtual meetings and phone conversations. In between I try and find an hour or two to work in our 2 acre garden, where I grow 100 fruit trees, berries, veges and roses.

Aquaculture strategy

SIV (Joanne Butterworth-Gray) and VFA recently hosted an online meeting to gather ideas for the development of a new aquaculture strategy. This was the first of three planned meetings with industry and other interested parties. Aquaculture is growing its capacity to provide seafood for the growing Australian market. Without this growth in aquaculture, Australians will be forced to eat more and more imported products. It's important we plan for this future and examine what we should do about risks and opportunities that we can identify. Joanne Butterworth-Gray chaired the meeting which held everyone’s interest throughout with some fascinating presentations and lots of questions for the presenters.

Participants heard an informative presentation from Jo Hall, CEO of Woolproducers Australia. The wool industry has in recent years had to deal with social licence matters relating to mulesing. Criticism from a few poorly informed individuals was influencing market perceptions. Aquaculture has come into criticism in recent years around salmon farming in Tasmania. Victoria has no offshore farming of finfish but nevertheless gets adversely impacted by uninformed criticism aimed at the industry regardless of state jurisdictions.

The group also heard from Tracey Bradley, Principal Veterinary Officer, Aquatic Animal Health, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions on biosecurity risks which is very timely given the current AVG outbreak. Brendan Tatham, CEO, PrimeSafe spoke about seafood safety and the services provided by PrimeSafe. Jeff Mutseers, Regional Development Victoria and Mark Keane, Invest Victoria, Department Treasury and Finance discussed the services their organisations provide to facilitate investment growth in Victoria.  The facilitator was Ewan Colquhoun who has worked with the mussel industry resulting in the formation of the Queenscliff hatchery and has also worked with the Australian Abalone Growers Association and Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.

We look forward to the next steps, which Joanne Butterworth-Gray and the VFA are currently working on.

Contact the VFA

General fisheries inquiries, call 136 186 from anywhere in Australia for the cost of a local call (except for mobiles and public telephones, which have additional costs).

Report a fisheries offence
To report suspected illegal fishing, please call 13 FISH (13 3474)

Commercial fishing licence enquiries
Please call (03) 8392 6860 or email
Note that the Duty Officer emergency pager service number and the Commercial Fisheries fax machine is no longer in operation.

Fish translocation and stocking enquiries

Please call (03) 5258 0281 or email

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Victorian Fisheries Authority · Level 19 · 1 Spring Street · Melbourne, Vic 3000 · Australia

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