Scallops back after 10 years

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Things are looking up for Nelson’s recreational and commercial scallopers with surveys showing stocks returning to Tasman Bay for the first time in a decade.

Tasman Bay has not been fished commercially since scallop populations collapsed in 2005, with recreational catches also declining dramatically during that period. However, surveys carried out by the Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company, which manages the enhancement and harvesting for commercial sector around the top of the South Island, indicate that scallops are making a comeback.

Company chief executive John Reid says surveys carried out in May to assess stocks showed a promising new scallop bed in Tasman Bay extending from Peppin Island along the eastern shoreline to Cape Souci. Challenger hopes to take 15 tonnes from the area when commercial fishing starts in September – it will be the first commercial scallop catch in Tasman Bay for a decade.

John says the area has a “possible biomass at 72 tonnes” although, interestingly, the scallops are at a depth of 20 to 30m which is deeper than normal. He says that may be too deep for recreational vessels to dredge and recommends trying the shallower beds in Delaware Bay.

“It’s early days but our guys have been surprised,” John says. “It seems as though the scallops are coming back in the deeper water where they are displacing the oysters.

John says the scientists don’t know why the scallops are now living in deeper water in Tasman Bay, although there is a suggestion that it is because there is a “good flow of clearer water out there”.

John says a fleet of nine commercial boats will take around 50 tonnes, 52 less than is permitted in the Total Allowable Commercial Catch, from the Top of the South’s Scallop Area 7 this season. The commercial fishery usually commences in the second week of September and lasts for about 20 days.

Fisherman Troy Dando says the scallops will be out of reach for most recreational fishermen this season, but it is good news overall.