Diving for sustainable scallops

Last week, there were calls for scallop dredging to be banned in the Marlborough Sounds, following scientific report saying that 70% of the Sounds had been lost from dredging, trawling, and sedimentation from forestry. At the same time we see habitat loss, we also see a decline in scallop abundance throughout most of the top of the South, Tasman and Golden Bays, and the Marlborough Sounds.

I agree that, in order to restore habitats and scallop stocks, we need to change the way scallops are caught. It’s time to move away from damaging trawling and dredging practices and towards a dive based scallop fishery, albeit under careful quota setting.

I have watched from my time living in the outer Pelorus Sounds in the late 80s and 90s, as the scallop industry shrunk considerably from the use of habitat damaging dredging methods. But the industry has rejected our calls for better management. Dredging for scallops is like cutting down an apple tree to pick the apples. Now is the time for change: dredging for scallops must stop. A Top-of-the-South dive industry will ensure that we have scallops around in the future – unlike current practices which are steering us towards a collapse of the local scallop population.

The good news, is that there are likely co-benefits of moving to a dive-based scallop fishery. Scientists Glenn Carbine et al researching Foveaux Strait in Southland found that when oyster dredging stopped for seven years, the habitat improved to the point that there was 227 times the amount of cod in the re-emerging seaweed.

Family fisheries have declined rapidly in the Marlborough Sounds, and we’ve seen a huge decrease in the number of boats harvesting a decreased number of scallops. We need a sustainable approach to ensure we have indefinite fisheries, not a time-limited one. We need to restore the fishery so local fishers can make a livelihood – the way to do this is through a dive industry.

5 Comments Posted

  1. I agree I was resident in golden bay when scallo seeding was introduced with great success for many years. It is fairly obvious I me that the extensive use oft edges and especially the practice of attaching times has caused severe decline of the scallop resource. Diving would appear to be the solution and hopefully see a recovery. I am too old to go diving now and have health problems anyway so would have to buy mine in future

  2. Dive clubs and divers have for many years been telling the public of the destruction caused by dredges.
    This has lead to loss of habitates for many species. Commercial fisherman seem hell bent on the total destruction of both seeded and natural scallop beds. Diving only would be a step in the right direction of
    protecting this valuable resource

  3. The Marlborough sounds has been decimated by many years from poor foresight of consequences generated through greed. The large decimation of habitat is not solely to blame through dredging. The forestry run off, the choked waterways of mussel harvesting and the dredging have all combined to destroy a once bountiful area.
    Our children will be lucky to see the sounds return to normal even if drastic measures were to be put in place tomorrow. On saying that however the sooner we start with these changes needed the sooner we will make a start towards returning the sounds back to how they were.
    Forestry run off and siltation will continue for many many years ahead. We will lose most of the Pelorus sound to this problem and we have already. Farmers of sheep and beef have a basic strategy, if the land is not producing and the animals are starving they reduce stock to a manageable level. Not in the Marlborough sounds! The mussel farms in the Keneperu sound entrance once had a sow to harvest time of 9 to 12 months. Now it is getting close to 5 years. The solution from companies is put more farms in not take some away. That mentality has to end before any sort of change can come about.
    The water quality in these sounds is now approaching toxic to most aquatic life. Blaming over fishing by the recreational sector is so far off base it is not funny. I do not have a science degree and I can see clearly what has and is happening. Why do we wait so long for science that is based one way or another depending on who pays the most.
    I find it so ironic now that overseas based companies can force us to allow them to fish farm salmon in OUR water not theirs. With all the sustainable green science coming out of Canada on what will happen to our waterways with this crazy form of fish farming it is alarming no one is taking any notice or caring of the future consequences. A 90% collapse of natural born fish everywhere there is fish farming should sound the alarm bells.
    These debates will rage for many years ahead. I sure hope our children see what is coming and stand strong against the greed that is destroying their future.

  4. Scallop reseeding remains relatively practical and cost effective – the privatisation of the crown research that developed this capacity was a mistake and should be reversed.

  5. I worked scallop dredging in the early 80’s at Mercury Bay (Coromandel). We were getting 80-120 bins a day of scallops and then the Nelson scallops collapsed and 6 boats from there turned up at our spot. The following season saw the collapse of our fishery too. We used to take a MAF researcher on our boat often and he would dive on the dredge to see what happened.. He had tales of bottom damage, of damaged scallops as feed exploding the starfish population to the point healthy scallops were devastated, or swam to nearby areas to survive. I gave up scalloping for a living at that point. It recovered with better management but a dive only policy would keep a better overall balance of all fisheries in the area.

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