Special abalone recovery group to be established

The total allowable commercial catch (TACC) for abalone will be reduced for the coming season and a Special Abalone Recovery Group will be established to re-build stocks in NSW.

110 tonnes of abalone can be taken commercially in the 2007/2008 fishing period beginning July 1 – which is 15 tonnes less than the previous season.

The Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee, which is made up of independent experts, has reported that abalone is in a severely overfished state.

The NSW government is taking immediate action by forming a Special Abalone Recovery Group, which must provide recommendations within three months on further actions to re-build the fishery.

There are some encouraging signs that the four year decline across the commercial fishery is halting, however clearly more can be done.

The Committee has stressed the importance of maintaining a conservative approach in setting the commercial catch limit and the need for decisive action to rebuild the fishery.

The Special Recovery Group will assess whether a more conservative target should be set for maintaining abalone stocks, whether to raise the minimum size limit for harvesting abalone and whether to proceed to monitor and manage abalone stocks at a more localised level.

As part of the new limits, no commercial catch will be permitted north of Tuross Lake, due to the vulnerability of abalone along that part of the coastline. The daily bag limit for recreational fishers will remain at two per person.

The more productive southern parts of the coast will remain open.

While the closure of part of the coast will have a short-term impact on the commercial sector, the decision is necessary to ensure the ongoing sustainability of the abalone industry.

DPI will implement a number of other key measures to ensure the long term viability of the fishery.

Scientific and industry divers will conduct a research survey, to assess the status of abalone stocks in the part of the fishery (Jervis Bay to Port Stephens) affected by the Perkinsus parasite. The survey will begin as soon as the sea conditions settle down, following the recent wild weather.

An economic productivity study and business analysis of the abalone fishery is underway, to help provide a platform for future economic prosperity and growth in the fishery.