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.