Low lev­els of scal­lops close beds

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - GER­ARD HUTCHING

The Govern­ment has closed the scal­lop fish­eries in Golden Bay, Tas­man Bay and the Marl­bor­ough Sounds for the 2017-18 sea­son be­cause of low lev­els of the shell­fish.

Pri­mary In­dus­tries Min­is­ter Nathan Guy said the clo­sure, fol­low­ing one made last year, was be­ing made to al­low stocks to re­cover.

‘‘I closed parts of the fish­ery last sea­son af­ter sur­veys showed a sub­stan­tial de­cline in scal­lop num­bers,’’ he said.

‘‘This has al­lowed the fish­ery to be rested, but sur­veys this year show the stocks have still not re­cov­ered sig­nif­i­cantly.’’

The clo­sure, which also in­cludes the neigh­bour­ing Port Un­der­wood area, had re­ceived public sup­port af­ter ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cals.

Sci­en­tists would now carry out re­search to de­ter­mine why stocks were de­clin­ing.

Guy said the Govern­ment has com­mit­ted $400,000 over two years for re­search.

‘‘Over the next year, MPI will be com­mis­sion­ing new re­search to as­sess scal­lop sur­vival and growth across a range of en­vi­ron­ments in Tas­man and Golden Bay, and in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds,’’ he said.

‘‘This will help de­ter­mine whether in­ter­ven­tions such as re­seed­ing of scal­lops, reestab­lish­ment of shell reefs and changes to fish­ing gear are likely to be suc­cess­ful.

‘‘It will also help de­ter­mine what role dis­ease and other fac­tors may be hav­ing in sup­press­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of the scal­lop beds.’’

Last year was only the sec­ond time ever that parts of the South­ern Scal­lop Fish­ery were closed.

The idea to close the fish­ery again for the 2017-18 sea­son was floated in May as stocks lan­guished at low lev­els.

The min­istry had in­di­cated its pref­er­ence to keep the Chal­lenger fish­ery (SCA7) closed af­ter poor re­sults from the sur­vey in Jan­uary.

The sur­vey re­sults demon­strated a fur­ther de­crease in SCA7 biomass, when com­par­ing the same sur­vey ar­eas, from 153 tonnes in Novem­ber 2015 to 109 tonnes meatweight in Jan­uary 2017.

Biomass in Tas­man Bay had de­creased from 75 tonnes to 15 tonnes since the 2015 sur­vey, while Golden Bay has dropped from 8 to 3 tonnes.

The Marl­bor­ough Sounds as a whole re­mained close to the low­est recorded biomass level and con­tained the only re­main­ing dense beds of scal­lops con­sid­ered crit­i­cal for the re­pro­duc­tive suc­cess of the fish­ery.

Scal­lop biomass in that area has in­creased slightly in the ab­sence of fish­ing from 69 tonnes to 89 tonnes.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

Scal­lops be­ing un­loaded at Pic­ton wharf.

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