The Victoria state government has lifted the allowable commercial catch for the state’s ocean scallops fishery by more than seven times after new scallop beds were discovered off the east coast.
A survey conducted near the Tarwhine oil and gas fields off Gippsland confirmed a return of harvestable scallop beds in the area – and subsequent consultation with industry bodies and licence holders has resulted in a substantial increase to the total allowable commercial catch (TACC), from 135 to 979 tonnes.
This discovery of healthy scallop beds is welcome news for fishers, who have spent the past decade focusing their efforts in the Commonwealth-managed Bass Strait Central Zone Scallop Fishery.
The TACC increase to 979 tonnes will see the return of activity in Victoria under new management arrangements set to ensure the future sustainability of the fishery.
Half of the Tarwhine bed will be closed to commercial fishing to ensure the longevity of the scallop beds, and the commercial catches will be taken from the remaining half still open to fishing.
The estimated size of the Tarwhine bed is 7,876 tonnes. A TACC of 979 tonnes means just 12 per cent of legal sized scallops will be harvested, leaving a biomass of more than 6,000 tonnes to maintain ongoing recruitment to the fishery.
A research levy will be applied to all licences to fund future surveys of scallop stocks to inform TACC setting.
The Victorian ocean scallop fishery extends out from the coastline 20 nautical miles. The management of scallop fisheries is complex and cyclical with repeated “boom” phases often followed by extended fishery closures.
Published since 1978, Ausmarine is the foremost magazine servicing the Australian and New Zealand commercial, military and government marine sectors.