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Saturday, 16 May 2015

PPB Scallops, the facts and the bullshit

PPB Scallops the facts, the bullshit and an opinion

Recently there has been a petition started by Future Fish, re the commercial Scallop harvest in Port Phillip Bay. It’s very disappointing this group is running such a dishonest petition. This petition is misleading to say the least. Both the images used in the petition are that of a scallop dredger, that have absolutely nothing to do with this hand harvest fishery. The mentioned quota increase from 12 tonnes to 725 tonnes is simply a scare tactic. 725 tonnes is only the figure the operator has requested, the TACC Setting-Scallop dive consultation paper recommends an increase to 108 tonnes (less than10% of the estimated biomass), and the department has recommended 585 tonnes to the minister. The petition also makes claims that the licence holder can set his own catch limits and that the licence holder is exploitation his position by pursuing the state government in the Supreme Court. The facts are that the licence holder has taken action because the quota has not been set as required by April the 1st 2015 and he is unable to fish until it is, the court ruled that the minister must set the quota by the 25thof May 2015, but highlighted that the court cannot impose the figure for the quota and that the ministers is not bound by even the departments recommendations of 585 tonnes. Only that the quota must be set by said date.

The petition also mentions a great project started by the Albert Park Yachting and fishing club to reseed PPB with mussels, oysters and scallops, the only trouble is that this project has never even suggested reseeding scallops only mussels and oysters, it’s a little embarrassing that a group like Future Fish would now so little about such a great anglers initiative. The petition makes claims that the hand harvest (of less than 10% of the scallop biomass) will affect our recreational snapper fishery. The former Department of Environment and Primary Industries commissioned a study to consider if the scallop dive fishery would have a detrimental impact on the PPB recreational snapper fishery (Kennelly 3013). The study concluded that it was difficult to identify any scenario where the commercial dive scallop fishery would have a detrimental impact on the PPB snapper stock or fishery.

The Age September 25, 2013 fishing expert Rex Hunt welcomed the announcement, in a sharp turnaround from his previous opposition. In 1997, Hunt publicly vowed to fight the ''thugs in the scallop industry'' and their dredging of Port Phillip Bay. He was instrumental in persuading the Victorian government, led by Premier Jeff Kennett, to ban dredge-fishing of scallops. Mr Hunt told Fairfax Media he supported any measures to create a sustainable fishing industry. ''It is the methods used that have been a concern,'' he said. ''I am totally comfortable with the idea of dive, hand-harvested scallops.''


What we have here in the hand harvest scallop fishery in PPB is not only possibly the most environmentally friendly commercial marine harvest in the country, with a very conservative quota allocation, that has multiple layers of safe guards. But even more importantly when setting up this fishery the views of recreational anglers and its peak bodies was not only listen to but if you read the conditions of the fishery they have gone further and beyond any commercial fishery in this country to accommodate any concerns we might have had. One of the very conditions of the fishery is that it cannot impact on the recreational fishing experience. Show me one other commercial fishery that has that! Now that Future Fish is attacking this fishery and asking for its complete closure, more than anything, this is a slap in the face to those anglers that did the hard work to ensure that the interests of recreational anglers were protected when this fishery was set up, Future Fish like any other group or concerned person had the opportunity to voice any concerns they had, back then when all the hard work was being done, and for them to come out now with this petition that is at best un researched and worst simply full of bullshit and intently misleading, is an insult to every recreational angler in this state! We deserve better than that form a group that claims working for recreational anglers. This petition can only be viewed as either a political stunt or serving a personal agenda!
The back ground The Scallop harvest in PPB is a hand harvest, possibly the most environmentally friendly commercial seafood harvest in the country, last year the quota was set at 12 tonnes, as a precautionary approach as the fishery was in its first year. A condition of access to the fishery was the requirements for the operator to meet the costs for Fisheries Victoria to conduct a survey. Costing $68,765.45, the survey report was produced by Fisheries Victoria in November 2014. This report provided a conservative estimate of the bio mass of Scallops within certain zones in PPB. The survey estimated that 3,629 tonnes of Scallops are available to be fished within the four zones.

The Scallop
Scallops are considered an early maturing/short lives species that can repopulate areas quickly following fishing or mortalities. Their numbers are highly variable being heavily influenced by environmental conditions. Scallops are sedentary and aggregate in dense beds. Making them susceptible to over exploitation, and localised depletion. Requiring special management and regular assessments.
Safe Guards
This fishery is a hand harvest fishery only. The maximum quote can only be set up to 20% of the estimated biomass. In the event of knowledge gaps in the science or the biomass estimation a precautionary approach is used and the maximum for the quota is 10% of the bio mass. Recreational Scallop areas have been excluded from the commercial harvest areas. Six commercial fishing zones have been set up to ensure the effort is spread across PPB A minimum commercial size limit of 90mm has been set to ensure sufficient numbers of sexually mature scalps remain to reproduce, assist in preventing serial depletion, and ensuring the harvested scallops have at least two spawning seasons.
It requires that the commercial license holder undertake annual biomass surveys.
It requires that the recreational daily bag limit remains at 100 scallops.
When setting TACC impacts on recreational fishing must be considered, to promote quality recreational fishing opportunities and to facilitate access to fisheries resources for recreational users.

Recreational allocation
According the 2009 Ernst and Young report the recreational harvest of PPB scallops is 131 tonnes. But a concern that has popped up and been totally ignored by the Future Fish petition is that in the TACC Setting-Scallop dive consultation paper, there is a recreational allocation of scallops. Allocation indicates that this government has created a catch share fishery without any consultation with anglers at all. This could have enormous ramifications for recreational fishers if this is the precedent that this government has taken.
In 2011 in the Future Fisheries Strategy: Proposals for Reform Paper, first discussed the recreational catch share as a resource sharing arrangement and it was knocked on the head quick smart. A catch share as huge implications for recreational fishing, basically we are allocated a share/quota of each species, if we exceed this quota then the following year we must take actions to reduce our share/quota accordingly, or purchase someone else’s allocation/share (our allocation/share like anyone’s can be traded) and anyone can bid for any allocation, even groups that want to close us down. Another issue is that the allocation can be adjusted and changed with the fluctuating abundance of the biomass of the species. Anglers would also be responsible for cost recovery for the science required, possibly seeing an increase in licence fees and a reduction in other RFL funded projects. As an example with the governments buy out of netting licences in PPB, the cost of doing the Snapper biomass and recruitment studies in PPB would be born entirely by the recreational sector, or our take will need to be reduced to allow for old or poor science.
I am perplexed why Future Fish failed to even touch on this important matter, and I would suggest that we as anglers have this allocation clarified as soon as possible, whether it was intentional or just a poor choice of words!

If the commercial hand harvest of Scallops in PPB is such a huge concern for Futurefish, than have they go any concerns about the annual recreational harvest of 131 tonne? Are Futurefish going to start a petition to ban the recreational harvest of PPB Scallops? Note that the likely quota increase for the PPB commercial hand harvest Scallop fishery is likely to be 108 tonne(less than the estimated recreational catch), and still less than 10% of the biomass in the selected fishing areas. Our peak body VRFish supports the likely quota increase of the 108 tonne.

As to the reason why Future Fish would start such a misleading petition is very suspicious indeed. The petition attacks the previous government minister who not only listen to recreational anglers on this issue but set rules far and beyond any other commercial fishery in this country to safe guard what we do. I can only assume someone has political ambitions and is using recreational anglers to help achieve his goal.

This petition is a bit like, ban all commercial netting in PPB, except the PPB netted Pilchards available exclusively from my store.

Futurefish needs to stop this misleading petition immediately as well as apologise to all Victorian anglers, especially the anglers that were mislead into signing the petition.

As to the person running the Talking Fishing Facebook page who were promoting this petition, that not only removed posts that were trying to inform anglers with facts on this issue, but also banned people for trying to do this, feel free to post a question if you have trouble understanding any of this!

Again the main concern is this recreational allocation that has appeared from thin air, this needs to be explained by the minister and the department immediately!