Low levels of scallops close beds
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.
Scallops being unloaded at Picton wharf.