New management arrangements for Queensland saucer scallop fishery

New management arrangements for Queensland saucer scallop fishery

Queensland’s trawl fishers will no longer be able to keep saucer scallops when fishing in waters in the central and southern part of the coast to address an ongoing drop in stocks.

Deputy Director-General Fisheries Queensland Graeme Bolton said a decision to protect scallop stocks followed the latest scientific data.

“The 2021 stock assessment for saucer scallops in Queensland estimates a spawning biomass of 12 per cent of the unfished biomass in 2020 – a decrease from the 2019 estimate of 17 per cent,” Mr Bolton said.

“A limit of 20 per cent of the unfished biomass is the national standard for ceasing fishing effort or harvest until the stock is rebuilt to a sustainable level.”

Mr Bolton said Fisheries Queensland has been working closely with all stakeholders to seek feedback on management options for the scallop fishery, before finalising a decision.

“From this coming season, scallops in the Central Trawl region and Southern Inshore Trawl region will be no-take until a minimum of 30 per cent biomass level is reached,” he said.

“Importantly for industry, fishing for other species, such as prawns and Moreton Bay bugs, will be allowed to continue in all regions under the existing regulations and scallop will still be able to be retained in the Southern Offshore Trawl region, but for a shorter fishing season.”

Mr Bolton praised all stakeholders for their cooperation and previous efforts to try to turn scallop stock numbers around.

“This decision is unlikely to be a surprise to scallop fishers. We have seen this fishery decrease in value from approximately $16 million per year in the 1990s, to less than $1.8 million in 2019,” he said.

“Unfortunately, management action in recent years has not resulted in the rebuilding of the scallop population that we had hoped for.

“If we don’t take strong action now, there will be no scallop fishery into the future and we will likely lose Commonwealth export approvals for the trawl fishery valued at approximately $180 million per year.

“Fisheries Queensland will work with key stakeholders to review the Southern Inshore and Central Trawl harvest strategies to provide for the long-term rebuilding of scallops and to determine agreed conditions for the reopening of fishing for scallops.”

“Any changes to the harvest strategies will be subject to further public and industry consultation.”

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Photo courtesy of Fisheries Queensland.