Communique 18 April 2018

A teleconference was held with the Expert Panel on 18 April 2018 to discuss the current state of the scallop fishery.

The Panel were provided an update on the recent stock assessments and relevant catch data. It was noted that survey and fishery catch rates in the southern areas of the fishery were higher in 2017 than the proceeding years, while catch rates in the traditional scallop fishing grounds remained low. It was also noted that recent anecdotal information from the fishery has indicated that small scallops are being caught in the traditional grounds.

The panel felt that further changes were needed to help rebuild scallop stocks given the low level of abundance from last stock assessment and recent independent surveys. The panel discussed the advice of trawl fishery working group including the options to extend the winter closure to either 1 Dec or 3 Jan, or to apply a full closure for the fishery.

The Panel recommended that due to the low level of biomass, the winter closure should be extended to ensure all scallop had a chance to spawn before being taken and also increase meat quality at the time of harvest. The Panel recommended that this year (2018) the closure should be extended until 1 December, and that the need for additional actions to rebuild the stock, such as an extension of the closure until 3 January, should be considered the following year (2019), depending on the outcomes of the stock assessment and how quickly the stock is rebuilding. The Panel also highlighted the need to closely monitor whether any effort shifts into the eastern king prawns during November if the winter scallop closure is extended until 1 December.

The Panel did not support a full closure for this year (2018) as there was concern about transferring effort onto eastern king prawn which is currently being harvested at close to full capacity. In providing their recommendation the Panel also noted the economic impacts of a full closure, particularly to onshore processors, and agreed this shouldn’t be progressed at this stage, especially until a stock assessment is completed later this year and the biomass trend is better understood.

The Panel also agreed that changes were needed more broadly in the trawl fishery to ensure that the transfer of effort does not impact other regions and noted consultation is currently underway on reforms to the fishery.

The Panel noted that the ultimate decision to extend the winter closure would be a matter for the government, taking into account all the relevant data and advice from both the trawl working group and the Panel.

The Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel will meet again in late July and October 2017.

The members of the Sustainable Fisheries Expert Panel are: Associate Professor Ian Tibbetts, Dr Cathy Dichmont, Mr Ian Cartwright, Associate Professor Daryl McPhee, Dr Michelle Heupel, Dr Nadine Marshall, and Dr Sean Pascoe.