Scallop harvest based in Sounds

Most top-of-the-south scallops will be taken from the Marlborough Sounds this year, Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company chairman Buzz Falconer says.

Mr Falconer told Fairfax NZ that the commercial take had been reduced from 61 tonnes to 53 tonnes, and almost all would be harvested from the Marlborough Sounds, with a few being dredged from a part of Golden Bay near Farewell Spit.

Following the pattern of recent years, there will be no harvest in Tasman Bay.

It is a far cry from a decade ago when scallops were plentiful in both bays. Despite studies, no firm conclusion has been reached for the cause of the decline, but Mr Falconer attributes it to polluted runoff from rivers.

He said this year's surveys did not find any scallops in Tasman Bay in under 25 metres of water. Croisilles Harbour, a favourite amateur area outside Okiwi Bay, contained "a major crop" of undersized scallops. This was a good sign, but not for this season. Similarly, Ketu Bay, another popular amateur fishing area in Pelorus Sound, contained many small scallops, but enough of legal size for people to reach their quota.

Commercial boats would not fish either of those bays, but would target others in Pelorus and Queen Charlotte Sounds.

Mr Falconer said the lack of scallops in Tasman Bay and Golden Bay remained "a major concern".

Meanwhile, the Primary Industries Ministry is calling on amateurs to follow the rules when they go scalloping in the Challenger Fishery Management Area this season. It warned that fisheries officers would be on patrol. The fishery covers the top of the south and the West Coast.

The amateur season started yesterday and runs until February 14.

Ministry Nelson-Marlborough district compliance manager Ian Bright said observing the limit was crucial to preserving scallop stocks.

The minimum legal size of scallops in the area is 90 millimetres measured across the widest part of the shell, with a limit of 50 per fisher each day. For dredgers, this meant those who were actively involved in putting out or hauling in the dredge. In addition, divers were entitled to take an amount equivalent to an extra daily bag for each of up to two safety people aboard a boat.

There is no allowance for people to land freshly shucked or frozen shucked scallops from a boat, as fishery officers are unable to count or measure them accurately. Scallops can be eaten onboard, but daily limits still applied. Scallops not eaten must be landed in the shell, including when being transported by boat from a bach or holiday home.

"People who intend to accumulate their daily catches in the shell over a period of days must be aware that they will need to provide proof to fishery officers of where and when the catches were taken."

Mr Bright asked breaches be reported by calling 0800 476 224. More information on recreational fishing limits is online at fish.govt.nz.

Fairfax NZ

The Marlborough Express