South Australia's pipi - also known as Goolwa cockles - are currently considered to be overfished, so in a move to improve the sustainability of the fishery, the State Government and industry have agreed to reductions in the allowable catch this year and to a shorter harvesting season.
Announcing the reductions, Fisheries Minister, Paul Caica said:
• The Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) for the upcoming commercial pipi season will be reduced by 50% from last season down to 300 tonnes, and
• The recreational bag limit of 300 pipi cockles per person will now be enforceable by law.
Fisheries Minister, Paul Caica, says information collected by SARDI Aquatic Sciences and PIRSA Fisheries has shown pipi stocks are at a low level.
"While last year's TACC was set at 600 tonnes, only 469 tonnes were caught, with harvesters voluntarily cutting short their season by seven weeks, due to the large proportion of undersize pipis.
"Catch rates have steadily declined from a peak in 1995/96 of 1250 kilogram per day to just over a quarter of that level last year of 330 kilograms per day.
"These reductions aim to achieve sustainability of pipi - or Goolwa cockles - in South Australia including returning the fishery to better stocks."
In setting the 2009/10 TACC, PIRSA Fisheries has worked in consultation with the Goolwa Cockle Pipi Harvesters and Southern Fishermen's Associations.
"I'm very pleased that that all parties have worked together to come to an agreement for the commercial catch." This includes several commercial closures during November, January and February to allow the pipi to spawn and grow during the peak spawning season.
"As a result of industry concerns over the fishery's sustainability, the commercial season will commence a month later than in previous years, now starting on Tuesday 1 December," Mr Caica said.
"A further two week closure will then be implemented in January and, if necessary two weeks in February." It was also agreed that the size limit would be reviewed this season, with a view to potential changes next season.
The reduction in the maximum daily recreational bag limit for pipis will come into effect this Sunday 1 November, when the recreational season commences.
"In 2008, recreational fishers were asked to voluntarily observe a reduction in the maximum daily bag limit from 600 to 300 pipis per person," Minister Caica said.
"We've since made the appropriate fisheries management changes to ensure these limits are now enforceable by law." To help harvesters ensure they are taking only legal-sized pipis, PIRSA Fisheries has developed a new plastic measuring gauge, which is available cost-free from PIRSA offices and local tackle shops.
"Fishcare Volunteers and Fisheries officers will be visiting pipi fishing locations handing out the new gauges as well as answering any questions people may have in relation to size and bag limits," Mr Caica said.
"Fisheries officers will also be patrolling known pipi fishing locations and they'll be on the look-out for people doing the wrong thing."
Current closed areas for commercial and recreational pipi fishing will still apply and are detailed below.
Pipi rules at a glance
• Minimum size 3.5 cm
• Maximum recreational daily bag limit 300
• Recreational closed season from 1 June to 31 October 2010 inclusive
• Recreational anglers are not permitted to take pipis on the Younghusband Peninsula between the River Murray mouth and Kingston SE jetty (Coorong Beach) This is a commercial-only fishing zone
• Total Allowable Commercial Catch for 2009/10 is 300 tonnes
• The commercial fishery is managed under a quota system
• Commercial harvesters are not permitted to take pipis between the River Murray mouth and Port Elliot. This is a recreational-only fishing zone.