Lakes Entrance scallops will be back on the menu after a massive new scallop fishery was opened up off the coast of Lakes Entrance in Victoria’s east.
The scallop beds totalling 7,876 tonnes were discovered during a survey of a previously unfished area near the Tarwhine oil and gas fields off the east Gippsland coast.
- Commercial fishers have had their scallop quotes increased sevenfold
- Fishing and Boating Minister Melissa Horne says only 12 per cent of the scallops from the new fishery will be harvested
Victoria’s scallop fishing industry hopes the discovery can resurrect export markets
The lucrative find means commercial fishers can harvest seven times more scallops than usual.
The Victorian Government has lifted the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) from 135 tonnes to 979 tonnes.
Fishing and Boating Minister Melissa Horne said only 12 per cent of the scallops from the new fishery would be harvested, leaving smaller ones to spawn.
“This is a huge discovery, I’ve got to say, because commercial fishers have really been focusing out in the Commonwealth managed Bass Strait zone, so finding this bounty off the Gippsland coast is terrific,” Ms Horne said.
“So that means they can spawn and make sure that’s not touched, so we are only taking that small percentage.”
Scallop ‘boom and bust’
Victorian Scallop Fisherman’s Association president Steve Melissakis said industry had known about the huge fishery and was thrilled to be able to access it after years of reduced quotas and problems with seismic testing.
“It will help the fishermen to rebuild the scallop fisheries,” he said.
“Even though we have lost our infrastructure and export markets, we can start again, but there is no room for mistakes.”
Mr Melissakis said over the past 40 years, Bass Strait fishers rotated through three different fishing grounds at Lakes Entrance, King Island and Flinders Island to give each scallop fishery time to regenerate.
“We fish three years in Lakes Entrance, three years in King Island, three years in Flinders Island and that used to complete the 10-year cycle where the scallops, six years later, were ready to harvest.
“Our scallop industry is a boom and bust fishery, and we have learned how to fish boom and bust now.”
The Victorian government said the management of scallop fisheries was complex and cyclical, with repeated ‘boom’ phases often followed by extended fishery closures.
Mr Melissakis said the Victorian scallop fishers would now focus on rebuilding their export trade into France.
He believes there are still too many players diluting the market and that there should be fewer commercial licences available.
“We would like to see some licence reduction, not necessarily buyback but by amalgamating the licences … to help the industry be sustainable,” Mr Melissakis said.
A research levy will be applied to all commercial licences to fund future surveys of scallop stocks to inform the TACC.