Residents call for closed pipi season

VENUS Bay residents are calling for a closed season on pipi collecting in a bid to reclaim their beaches and town.

Carloads of people have descended on the town in recent weeks to collect pipis – a shellfish that is a prized delicacy in Asian cultures.

But locals are concerned about car parks and roads being congested with pipi collectors’ cars, and collectors crowding the beach, tossing rubbish into the dunes and lighting fires.

They also claim the pipi population could be at risk of over-harvesting, with no size limit in place.

On Sunday, cars lined both sides of the Beach Three access road.

The Star last week reported the Venus Bay Surf Life Saving Club was worried about crowds of pipi collectors – and the holes they left behind – hindering access to distant beaches during an emergency.

Police and fisheries officers held a joint roadblock at Tarwin Lower on Sunday, inspecting vehicles for pipi hauls. Results of that operation were not available before going to print.

Resident George Gabriel said the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) must act.

“Some form of restriction has to be imposed. If they can have restrictions to stop dogs going on the beaches, they can put restrictions on pipis, just for a period of time. A fisherman should be able to go and get pipis,” he said.

Mr Gabriel and others have called for pipi collection to be banned at Venus Bay between 9am and 6pm from December 1 until the end of March.

“People come here for their holidays, to relax and enjoy time with family, not to not even be able to walk 10 yards without falling in a hole,” he said.

“You would think a bomb has landed. There are holes everywhere.

“What is it going to take for fisheries to take this matter seriously?”

Resident Judith Hargreaves said dogs were banned from Venus Bay’s beaches due to the risk they posed to the hooded plover, but said crowds of people were an equal threat to the sand nesting bird.

She added pipi collectors had lit a fire in the car park of Beach Five to cook pipis, risking igniting the adjacent bush.

With only one road leading to and from Venus Bay, Ms Hargreaves said the potential for a bushfire catastrophe was significant.

Mr Gabriel said some people had called for bigger car parks and additional toilets to cater for the influx of visitors but said no number of toilets would be inadequate.

Justin Lee from North Melbourne was among the pipi collectors on the beach last Tuesday, December 23.

That was his first visit to Venus Bay to harvest pipis, which he planned to cook.

He learned of Venus Bay’s pipi population through friends.

Mr Lee said he was aware of catch limits and felt adequate information was available to pipi collectors about harvesting rules.

Venus Bay resident Peter Prysten said he catches two litres of pipis about three times a year.

“I do not blame people for catching them because they are beautiful,” he said.

“It’s not so much the people that come here but the rubbish they leave behind.”

A spokesperson for the DEPI said the department was aware of residents’ concerns about the impact of recreational harvesting on the local pipi population at Venus Bay during the peak holiday period.
“A number of studies commissioned by DEPI, the most recent being completed in 2013, have found the fishery is being managed sustainably and recreational harvesting during both peak and non-peak times is not threatening the resource,” the spokesperson said.

“However DEPI closely monitors the fishery to ensure the current management arrangements remain appropriate.”
DEPI currently has a compliance operation underway called Operation Sonic to ensure fishers observe the daily catch limit for pipis of two litres per person per day.
This catch limit applies within the Cape Liptrap Coastal Park between Point Smythe and Arch Rock, including Venus Bay.
“As part of Operation Sonic, fisheries officers worked all weekend at Venus Bay. This included a joint road block and vehicle inspections with Victoria Police on Sunday,” the spokesperson said.

“Fisheries officers will continue to maintain an active presence at Venus Bay during both the holiday season and off-peak period. Heavy fines apply to anyone found ignoring the daily bag limit or fishing without a recreational fishing licence.”
DEPi advised pipis may only be taken with the use of hands and feet. Tools of any size or shape are not permitted.

Time for change: Venus Bay residents George Gabriel (left) and Matthew Huby are concerned about the impacts crowds of pipi collectors are having on Venus Bay.

Time for change: Venus Bay residents George Gabriel (left) and Matthew Huby are concerned about the impacts crowds of pipi collectors are having on Venus Bay.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=13150

Posted by on Dec 30 2014. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Residents call for closed pipi season”

  1. There is some incorrect reporting throughout this article. As someone who has been a VB ratepayer for 25 years, this problem with pippies is not new. Fisheries & Wildlife, as well as the Gippsland Shire and the Inverloch Police were made aware of this issue at least 15 years ago but any concerns that people raised were put down to “racism”. There have been many incidents of non-verbal intimidation by the hoards who swarm on to the beaches.

    Some home truths include:-

    1. Many Pippi collectors sell their catch to restaurants along Victoria Street Richmond in the Melbourne CBD. In fact, if you walk along their particular street you will find fishmongers who proudly display “Venus Bay Pippies” in their shop window.

    2. Beach signage simply states “2 litres in shells” or “1/2 litre non-shelled. It does not say anything about per day or per person/family. Regardless, this amount is ignored and on many occasions they will tell you that they are allowed “5 litres per person”. They arrive with DOZENS of commercial eskies and/or 20litre buckets, as well as tools, particularly knives. One woman was seen using a metal “scoop” and when confronted she angrily said “it’s a toy, not a tool”!

    3. There is a website that Pippi collectors use to inform them of location, tides etc – all written in Vietnamese.

    4. VERY RARELY has the Beach been patrolled by anyone. The rare occasions that it is, the Rangers do no more than give a verbal warning, which is ignored and when the Rangers leave they go back to what they were doing. Also, there have been many occasions where they had refrigerated trucks on the outskirts of Tarwin Lower, the dozens of people would collect the Pippies in VB, drive to Tarwin Lower to deposit the catch into the refrigerated trucks, go back to the beach and start again. The Shire was aware of this happening. Fisheries & Wildlife was aware of this happening. The Police were aware that it was happening. NOTHING WAS DONE!

    5. Contrary to the DEPI Report, the pippi collection is NOT “sustainably managed” as there are very few tiny ones left and they even collect them, as witnessed by locals. Needless to say, no pippies means that there are no more fish in the waters. Instead of having so many snouts in the ratepayers trough coming up with a report that gives them what they want to know (as former PM Paul Keating once famously quoted, numbers can be manipulated. If you want to run a report/survey, ask the locals who live and see the problem each day. Equally, if one wants to write a newspaper report they would be better served to “tell it like it is” instead of glossing over a problem so that it complies with the politically correct “trend”.

    6. Instead of a “catch limit” that everyone ignores, why should VB beaches not be part of the Tidal Zone where it is forbidden to remove shellfish from the beach? Why is this exclusive to Walkerville, Sandy Point, Waratah Bay and beyond?

    7. With regard to rubbish being dumped, I, and many other locals, are fed up with picking up rubbish, including food containers, drink bottles, plastic bags, broken BBQs and babies disgusting dirty nappies, from the beach and access roads.

    As this problem has been building over the years and has been all but ignored by responsible parties more concerned with political correctness than anything else, if ever a fire lit to cook Pippies causes a major wildfire, with only one way in and out of VB, loss of property and wildlife will be nothing compared with the possibility of loss of human life. In such a situation, the possibility of a class action against said responsible parties who have continuously downplayed this problem is also quite significant.

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