The Tasmanian commercial scallop season opened on the 1 July 2014 and is expected to remain open until the end of the year.
Statewide surveys began at the beginning of April with six vessels participating in searching for scallops during the survey period.
These survey vessels located commercially viable beds in similar areas to where fishing was opened in 2013. Interestingly, at the end of the 2013 season, these areas were not yielding commercial volumes of scallops.
The Scallop Fishery Advisory Committee (ScFAC) met in early June and made recommendations to the Minister on the areas to open, season start date and the Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The Minister supported the ScFAC on all of these recommendations, approving two areas to be opened for 2014, one in the State's northwest off Circular Head and the second in the waters around White Rock on the east coast.
A TAC of 620 tonnes was set with the knowledge that if this tonnage is being approached and catch rates have remained high or another scallop bed is located, the TAC can be readily increased. The TAC was later increased to 1240 tonnes.
Early reports are of good quality scallops from moderate catch rates in the NW, with slightly reduced catch rates and scallop condition around White Rock – however, this may change reasonably quickly.
The White Rock Scallop Area has already been subject to some modified fishing effort with the recent detection in July of paralytic shellfish toxins in Great Oyster Bay. This area was already closed to scallop fishing as it is protected, but industry have taken the sensible step in voluntarily moving fishing operations well to the south of this area. This area will continue to be closely monitored with any action quickly taken to ensure the continued high reputation of this quality product.
Fresh Tassie scallops have been available in small volumes since around the start of the survey period, but with the season officially underway now, a more regular supply should be available for all to enjoy.
Permits have been issued for the months of April and May to 6 commercial scallop vessels to attempt to locate and then survey commercially viable scallop beds in state waters, that if viable may lead to a 2014 commercial scallop season.
As part of the scallop rules and permit conditions, these vessels are only allowed to survey in waters deeper than 20 metres and are prevented from surveying in many of the States bays and embayment's including all Shark Refuge Areas.
As an incentive for these vessels to undertake these surveys, they are allowed to retain any scallops that they locate ensuring they are of legal size. State waters have been divided into six regions with a total combined catch cap of 50 tonnes allowed from each area.
Any retained scallops can be commercially marketed, thus explaining why some retail outlets may have available 'Fresh Tasmanian Scallops' for you to enjoy over the next month or so.
Landed Catch by Month - 2014 Quota Year