Plea for delay in scalloping

A move to delay recreational scalloping in the top of the south this season has no legal weight but is being supported by consultative body spokesman Geoff Rowling.

A notice from an unknown group, "Sustainable Fishers Nelson", has been erected at Okiwi Bay, saying there is a voluntary ban on scalloping until September 1 due to low numbers, insufficient size and poor quality.

The bay, on the eastern side of Tasman Bay, provides trailer boat access to Croisilles Harbour, the closest point to Nelson where scallops can be gathered following the total collapse of the Tasman Bay fishery and a near-collapse in Golden Bay.

Last year it was heavily fished throughout the season, along with Ketu Bay in Pelorus Sound.

Mr Rowling, who chairs the Challenger Scallop and Dredge Oyster Recreational Advisory Group, said he did not know of the sign but was well aware of concerns.

"We've continued to see the shrinkage in the availability of scallops around the district, the concern being that Croisilles is really the only viable recreational fishery in either Tasman or Golden Bay right at the moment," Mr Rowling said.

Pre-season survey results showed high numbers of small scallops and fewer large ones than before last season, he said.

"That's perhaps a reflection of the pressure that the Croisilles was under last year."

The commercial sector had continued to do a good job of providing for recreational scalloping, even though its own catches had fallen away over the past five years, he said. It recognised the Okiwi Bay-Croisilles area's importance to recreational fishers, and the likelihood of commercial harvesting there was quite low.

"On that basis, encouraging people to reduce their bag limit and not fish until such time as the fish is in prime condition is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

"Maybe it's time to take some responsibility in the areas that we've been fishing," Mr Rowling said. "No-one wants to be blamed for catching the last scallop.

"It's been proven that in previous times when constraint has been shown, the fishery has bounced back."

Primary Industries Ministry Nelson-Marlborough district compliance manager Ian Bright said scalloping was permitted in the Okiwi Bay area as in the rest of the top of the south, with the season running from July 15 until February 14.

"We need to stand by what the regulations say, which is that people can take 50 a day at the moment as long as they're 90mm.

"One of our officers was approached and asked if we would support the ban, but that's not appropriate for us. If people ask us, ‘Can we fish?', the answer must be, ‘Yes, you can'. It's a local initiative, and people are free to support it if they wish."

He said fishery officers working in the area had found that divers and dredgers were able to get their bag limits, with reports that there were also lots of undersized scallops in the spots traditionally favoured.

The Nelson Mail