Anger as scallop meeting is canned

A meeting planned in Nelson today to review scientific work on the Marlborough Sounds scallop fishery has been cancelled at short notice.

Marlborough Recreational Fishers' Association scallop fishing representative Des Boyce told the association's annual meeting in Blenheim last night that the meeting in Nelson had been called off, which meant that recreational fishing representatives would go cold into a meeting on Monday to set commercial scallop harvest levels.

"The difficulty will be going to the meeting on Monday with no results, nothing to review before the meeting, and being expected to make a decision sitting around the table."

This was "discourteous", he said, and added that he would not be making any decisions at Monday's meeting.

"We will walk out and make the decision later. It's the only way to make a point that the service we're getting and the decisions we're expected to make are too important to make when it's shoved under our noses [at the last minute]."

The association passed a resolution supporting Boyce in that stance.

Primary Industries Ministry inshore fisheries manager Steve Halley, who had been in Blenheim yesterday for a Marlborough Sounds Blue Cod Management Group meeting, said the meeting today had been cancelled because a scientist was stuck on the Chatham Islands and unable to get to Nelson in time to talk about the science of the top of the South Island scallop fishery.

The only part of the top of the South Island scallop fishery open to commercial fishermen is the Marlborough Sounds, where 43 tonnes was harvested last season.

The fishery is run by the Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company, which represents the 32 quota holders who operate 13 boats harvesting scallops in the area.

Challenger board recreational fishing representative Geoff Rowling said last night that if the science showed a decline in scallop biomass in Queen Charlotte Sound compared to last season, there would be no commercial harvesting during the coming season.

He told the association meeting the declining catch over the years was an obvious sign that things were not as good as they should be.

"You can't just rotary hoe the Marlborough Sounds in the expectation of getting scallops."

However, he was just one of 11 people on the Challenger board, he said. He would advocate again at the company's board meeting, also to be held today, to limit harvesting in the Sounds.

The Marlborough Express