Shellfish threat


Shellfish threat

Peak season: pipi collectors at Venus Bay last Wednesday.

THE future of pipis at Venus Bay could be under threat, as thousands of people rush to the coast during the peak harvesting season.
Resident Beverley Walker has thrown her support behind a moratorium and more research, saying the pipis are being over-fished as collectors flout bag limits.
The Star has also been alerted to collectors using shovels and other tools to collect pipis illegally recently.
Authorities believe the pipi population at Venus Bay is not at risk, with fisheries patrols finding 85 per cent of harvesters complying with regulations.
Parks Victoria and fisheries officers will patrol Venus Bay over summer. Three pipi collectors were convicted of illegally taking pipis last year.
Venus Bay business-people also believe pipis bring extra people to town, boosting business.
Ms Walker said the animal’s future is at risk.
“My idea would be to block off the roads. Don’t let them (pipi poachers) in, then they’ll have to walk in. That’s a pie in the sky but it could happen given the anger of local people who are prepared to do it,” she said.
“Pipi beaches 1, 3, and 5 should be left from anyone taking pipis for at least a year to allow them to recover.”
Colin Suggett, of the Venus Bay Community Reference Group set up to focus on the pipi problem, said while the issue was not getting any worse, it was not improving.
He said a lack of knowledge was the major issue.
“Information is the big problem here. Perhaps a lot of the people who are coming down to collect pipis are coming from an area without strict constraints,” he said.
The reference group has sent an application to Bass Coast Shire Council and Fisheries Victoria in a bid to have a beach liaison officer employed. That person would offer information and observe bag limits.
“We’re hoping to see a person employed for a period of time, possibly six months on a part-time basis,” Mr Suggett said.
“They could do some preliminary work before the season and co-ordinate a volunteer group of beach advisers who would be full time on the beach during the summer period.”
Reference group members believed the only way to stop the illegal harvests was to catch collectors red handed.
“It’s a compliance issue, and like all compliance issues whether it be drink-driving or people driving too fast, they need to be caught,” Mr Suggett said.
Asian families have been the target of residents’ concerns, as they travel in groups to collect pipis. A statement from the reference group mentioned Indian, Chinese and South-East Asian families prefer to travel in large family groups as families are “core to their culture”. Pipis are popular in Asian diets.
A reduced catch limit was introduced to Venus Bay in 2009 in a bid to manage the pipi population.
People can only collect two litres in shells or half a litre without shells, and only use hands and feet to harvest.
In a letter to The Star this week, Venus Bay ratepayer Lina Caneva said since Christmas, hundreds of people in large family groups have been digging pipis and filling eskies, with “no Department of Fisheries inspectors in sight”.
“Their takings are in commercial quantities,” she said.
Ms Caneva said pipis had “become a ‘throw away’ resource, sacrificed for the business/tourist dollar”.
“Calls for a moratorium on the taking of pipis from Cape Liptrap Coastal Park until more extensive research into their ‘sustainability’ can be carried out have fallen on deaf government ears,” she said.
“Just based on one of the many conservation arguments for a moratorium, the pipis are part of the vital food chain for migratory birds. Parts of NSW and South Australia have already been fished out.”
Not everyone in Venus Bay is against the pipi collectors.
David Liebelt of the Venus Bay Store said pipi harvesting has benefited the town. He has been involved with the community reference group and believed the tensions between the community and pipi collectors are largely racially based.
“The tensions exist but I really believe it’s an issue of education on the part of both parties to have a better understanding and gain the facts on what is happening, rather than rely on scaremongering and rumours,” he said.
Mr Liebelt said pipis are being collected more sustainably but believed the State Government must continue to manage the issue.
“We are going to have problems if government agencies say there is nothing they can do,” he said.
Jacob van der Meulen of the Venus Bay Caravan Park welcomed pipi collectors to town.
“The more people that come down, the more money that comes into town. Day trippers buy coffee, they buy food, they buy bait and there is nothing wrong with that,” he said.
But Mr Suggett hit back at the comments, calling them “irresponsible”.
“We all have to be concerned about the sustainability of the environment and the sustainability of the pipis is an issue if they’re being over harvested, so those are irresponsible comments,” he said.
Ms Walker, a member of the community reference group, said the current rate of pipi harvesting was unsustainable, a direct contradiction to Fisheries Victoria.
“Fisheries believe that if people stay within the complied limits, the pipis are sustainable, but there is still further science to be done,” she said.
“There is still no minimum size limit. Some of the pipis being taken from the beaches are described as very immature. It is therefore not sustainable to harvest these pipis.
“These immature pipis should be put back, like the undersize fish caught from boats and shore.”
Fisheries Victoria did not respond to The Star before going to print.

Short URL: /?p=2745

Posted by on Jan 11 2012. 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

Share your love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *