Sounds scallop harvest reduced

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:54 23/08/2014

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A commercial scallop harvest plan has been approved, but the Government reduced the take in some areas of the Marlborough Sounds.

Documents from the Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company to the Government said this season would be the "worst for many years".

The harvest would be the lowest the fishery had seen since it was started in 1959, except for the years when it was completely closed.

Recreational fishing spokesmen said they expected that if the scallop numbers did not improve, the fishery would be shut to all sectors within a couple of years.

Challenger operations manager Mitch Campbell said current annual yield for the fishery was set at 30 tonnes, and capped areas within the Marlborough Sounds had been reduced from 23.5 tonnes to 18.5 tonnes.

"Since this plan was submitted, the Ministry for Primary Industries have required us to reduce the harvest from each area, to appease recreational access and meet international exploitation best practice in scallop fisheries, which we agree with."

Under the harvest plan, Tasman Bay and Golden Bay remain closed, as does Croisilles Harbour.

The only fishing would be in the Marlborough Sounds, with the take limited to 4 tonnes in Ketu Bay, 6.5 tonnes at Guards Bank, 1.75 tonnes at Forsyth, and 6.3 tonnes at Ship Cove.

The commercial season would be closed at Christmas, the Sunday of Labour weekend and Marlborough Anniversary Sunday.

Marlborough Recreational Fishers' Association spokesman Des Boyce said recreational fishermen were very pleased the proposal to fish in the Bay of Many Coves had been withdrawn.

Geoff Rowling, the recreational fishing representative on the Challenger board, said the scallop fishery was under pressure, and would remain that way until Tasman and Golden bays could return.

It was clear there was no opportunity to increase the catch in the Marlborough Sounds, he said.

"The Marlborough Sounds has been carrying the fishery for the past three to four years now. Volumes are at best static, and in some areas declining.

"If there is not some improvement in available catch, then I wouldn't be surprised if we did see a complete closure of the fishery again. That closure would be for everybody, not just the commercial sector."

Everyone in all fishing sectors wanted to see the scallop fishery return to good health, Rowling said.

The problem was that scallop spat were not surviving when seeded in Tasman and Golden bays, and no-one knew why, he said. It seemed there were some environmental issues such as seabed sedimentation from floods, but it was not related to anything commercial fishermen had control over. cathie.bell@mex.co.nz

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- The Marlborough Express

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