Urgent talks on all-time low scallop stocks


Fisheries Queensland officers are to hold urgent meetings with commercial operators to outline changes to management to protect the sustainability of scallops, which have plummeted to crisis levels. Fisheries Minister Bill Byrne said the latest scientific advice was that stocks had fallen to just 6% of original biomass.

Catch rates from January 2015 to April 2016 were the lowest in the 39-year record of catch rates. “Fishing those stocks beyond the point of no return is not in the interests of Queenslanders and not in the long-term interests of our commercial fishing industry or workers who process scallops,” the Minister said. “The latest data is so shocking we must take action and engage with the industry immediately about the direction the government intends to take.

“It is intended that the scallop replenishment areas, three of which were due to open for fishing on 3 January 2017, will be permanently closed and a winter spawning closure implemented for scallops from 1 May to 31 October each year.”

The scallop preservation areas cover about 11% of the grounds traditionally fished for scallops. Keeping these areas closed and implementing winter closures are expected to impact on up to 40% of the annual catch, based on outcomes from the fishery in recent years.

“Government will engage with industry now to gauge potential impacts, gather industry views and consider what role commercial fishers can play in monitoring the fishery,” the Minister said.

“I am advised that the parlous state of the scallop stocks will not come as a major surprise to scallop fishers. “Concerns had been raised by some operators that recent catches were severely depleted and they requested a winter closure. “But to this point the industry could not agree on the best management strategy which is why it has been left to the government to act.

“A formal stock assessment undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in partnership with the Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics (CARM) at the University of Queensland, conducted in response to the concerns raised by fishers, has set the alarm bells ringing. “I am convinced it would be irresponsible not to respond immediately and I am sure those in the scallop fishery will understand the need to act now or risk destroying the industry for ever,” the Minister said.

“I want to see this fishery operate long into the future which is why the science cannot be ignored.” The Minister said he hoped the decision to not re-open the scallop replenishment areas would give the stock time to recover to sustainable levels as scallops are traditionally a fast growing stock.

“An independent review of the stock assessment is being organised and will be completed as soon as possible, but I must respond to the science currently available. “This situation demonstrates clearly why current fisheries management arrangements are inadequate and must be reformed.

“Our Green Paper on fisheries management reform in Queensland, and the actions it will generate, will be crucial for the sustainability of commercial fishing in our state. “They are designed to avoid having to take these types of action in the future. “We must get future management strategies right so that stocks remain sustainable for the future.”

More information is available on the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website, including a copy of the stock assessment, a fact sheet on the intended changes and meeting times: https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/fisheries/consultations-and-legislation/reviews-surveys-and-consultations/meetings-with-fishers-on-intended-scallop-fishing-closures.

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