- Eat Less
- Trawl fisheries targeting scallop in WA operate over sandy sea floor and are not permitted in sensitive habitats, such as seagrass beds and fish nursery areas.
- Area closures in marine parks also provide additional protection for marine habitat and protected wildlife.
- Stocks are monitored every year before the start of fishing to ensure numbers are adequate to support fishing effort.
- The majority of stocks have rebuilt to acceptable levels following depletions as a result of a marine heatwave in 2011.
- The fisheries catch small numbers of protected seahorses and pipefish; devices that enable turtles to escape are mandatory. A lack of independent observer coverage is of concern.
- WA Shark Bay Scallop Managed Fishery, Abrolhos Islands and Mid-West Trawl Managed Fishery, South West Trawl Managed Fishery, South Coast Trawl Fishery (959t in 2016)
Saucer scallops are caught in a number of different trawl fisheries in WA, with the largest fishery operating in Shark Bay. Trawling may have some effect on the seafloor, but the impact is considered low as trawling mainly takes place over sandy sea floor that is naturally resilient to disturbance. Vulnerable habitats such as seagrass and fish nurseries are closed in order to protect them from the effects of trawling.
WA trawlers catch some threatened species, including seahorses and seasnakes, but in very low numbers that are unlikely to have population level impacts on these species. While the majority of fishing effort occurs in waters that are too cold for sea turtles, devices that allow turtles to escape are mandatory on boats where interactions could occur. However, there is no independent observer coverage in the WA-managed fisheries, and reported protected species interactions require verifying.
Marine parks provide significant protection for both marine habitat and protected wildlife in the largest saucer scallop fishery in Shark Bay, and state and commonwealth marine parks protect other areas close to saucer scallop fisheries.
Scallop populations are complex to assess, as scallop stocks are heavily influenced by factors such as water temperature. In WA, saucer scallop stocks were severely impacted by a three-year marine heatwave event that began in 2011, and the fishery has been in a rebuilding phase since then. Catches have recovered to pre-heatwave levels in some areas in 2018.
In WA, populations of saucer scallop are closely monitored, for example, independent surveys to determine scallop numbers are made at the beginning of the fishing season and areas are then opened if populations are adequate to support fishing activity. The fishing season is timed so that saucer scallops spawn before the fishing season, which helps protect stocks.
- Say No
- Saucer scallops are dangerously overfished in QLD, with numbers reduced to around 15% of historical levels.
- Saucer scallops are caught in bottom otter trawls. The Queensland fishery operates primarily in offshore waters southward of the Great Barrier Reef, over areas of sandy seabed.
- The accidental catch of threatened and endangered species like endemic sharks and rays is a major issue in Australian prawn fisheries. The Queensland government abandoned an independent observer program in 2012 so bycatch reporting is not reliable and science-based management is hampered as a result.
- Saucer scallops are caught using otter trawls that operate just above the seafloor. Significant areas of the seafloor are protected in area closures and marine parks in the QLD fishery.
East Coast Trawl Fishery (262t in 2020, 209t in 2019)
Ballot’s saucer scallop is a demersal filter feeding bivalve mollusc found in Western Australian, central/northern Queensland and New Caledonian waters, and are caught using bottom otter trawl fishing methods in QLD and WA.
The QLD saucer scallop fishery is dangerously overfished, to a level where under QLD’s sustainable fishery rules the fishery should be closed altogether until it has shown signs of recovery. The QLD government has been irresponsible in ignoring the scientific recommendations of their scientific assessment and own newly-developed harvest strategy.
Queensland trawl fishers are required to report any threatened and endangered species they catch but serious concerns have been raised in this fishery about unreliable reporting. Bycatch mitigation measures including turtle excluder devices are used in Queensland but may not address all the impacts of the fishery. Despite no major changes to management and a consistent level of fishing effort in recent years, 2019 saw a 63% reduction in bycatch reports of species like sawfish, sea turtles and sea snakes. This bycatch reporting is unverifiable because there has been no independent observer program since 2012.
This fishery has a high level of discards and it is concerning they are not required to be reported. The most recently available data estimated 25,271t of discards in 2014, compared to 6702t of retained catch in the same year. Secondary species include Tiger prawns, Eastern King prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and Balmain bugs.
The fishery will be required to resume an independent observer program by 2024, likely to be based on e-monitoring. While it is welcome, the program should be implemented sooner. This and other reforms currently underway in the Queensland fishery have strong potential to improve the GoodFish ranking of this seafood option if implemented quickly and effectively.