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Government of Western Australia - Department of Fisheries
Thursday 18 May 2017

Commercial scallop fishing to return to the Abrolhos

Monday 22 May is a day that commercial fishers in the Abrolhos Islands and Mid-West Trawl Managed Fishery have been looking forward to for five years.

When the marine heatwave off the Western Australian coast in 2010/11 hit scallops stocks hard, a decision to close the fishery was made in 2012 and a recovery plan was put in place.

Northern Bioregions Principal Management Officer Patrick Cavalli said there was relief, after years of monitoring and scallop sampling, that our research scientists had identified catch rates high enough to allow four commercial trawlers to operate during the 2017 fishing season.

“Environmental impacts, like a marine heatwave, can provide significant challenges to sustainability of species like scallops, which are strongly influenced by environmental conditions,” Mr Cavalli said.

“The Department of Fisheries will continue to work closely with the commercial operators involved in scallop fishing at the Abrolhos Islands to monitor sustainability and management arrangements as the stock recovery continues.”

The Abrolhos Islands and Mid-West Trawl Managed Fishery is based on the take of saucer scallops, with a small component targeting the western king prawn in the Port Gregory area. 

Mr Cavalli said, prior to the closure five years ago, the average Gross Value of Production of this fishery was approximately $6 million per year.

“Scallops are generally processed at sea and landed as high quality frozen meats, earning WA valuable export dollars primarily through Asian markets.” he said.

WA’s major commercial scallop fisheries operate in Shark Bay and at the Abrolhos Islands, with smaller operations along the South Coast and near Rottnest Island.

The 2010/11 marine heatwave also had a significant negative effect on abalone stocks, impacting both commercial and recreational fishers. Abalone fishing remains permanently closed for all coastal waters from Moore River to the Northern Territory border.

During the heatwave, water surface temperatures rose to unprecedented levels; in some areas, more than 5°C above average. The unusually warm water caused a number of fish kills for abalone and other fish species, including the dramatic impact on scallop stocks that led to the extended closures in Shark Bay and Abrolhos Islands fisheries.

Last modified: 18/05/2017 9:40 AM

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