The blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) forms the basis of the abalone fishery in NSW. Abalone are commercially harvested from rocky reefs by divers typically using surface-supplied air or scuba. In practice, most commercial abalone fishing takes place on the south coast of NSW, primarily from Jervis Bay to the Victorian border, with most abalone found close to the shore.
A comprehensive Fishery Management Strategy has been prepared for the Abalone Fishery and was approved by the Minister in April 2007. The strategy includes a description of the fishery and the management arrangements that apply or are proposed. Before the strategy was finalised, a draft strategy was subject to a formal environmental impact assessment process under the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. The Environmental Impact Statement was publicly exhibited between September and October 2005.
The Abalone Fishery is a share management fishery and the rules and regulations that apply are contained within the Fisheries Management (Abalone Share Management Plan) Regulation 2000 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) the Fisheries Management Act 1994 No 38 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) the Fisheries Management (General) Regulation 2010 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) and Fisheries Management (Supporting Plan) Regulation 2006 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au).
Commercial fishing of the species in NSW is controlled through a quota management system. A Total Allowable Commercial Catch (TACC) is set each year by the statutory and independent Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee. The TACC is proportionately allocated to shareholders on the basis of their shareholding in the fishery.
Shareholders have the option to catch their allocated quota themselves, transfer their quota to another shareholder or nominate a diver to catch their allocated quota. Many shareholders employ divers to catch abalone on their behalf. A total allowable catch of 110 tonnes was set for the 2007/08 fishing period (1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008) following the determination of the Total Allowable Catch Setting and Review Committee.
Some of the key changes that will be introduced to the Abalone Fishery as a result of the Abalone Fishery Management Strategy include:
Commercial fishing for abalone began in the early 1960s with annual catch rates of between 200 and 400 tonnes, peaking at 1,200 tonnes in 1971. However, by 1977 a combination of heavy fishing and bad storms caused catches to fall to around 300 tonnes.
Concern about the state of the resource led a 1979 Parliamentary inquiry to recommend that the abalone and sea urchin fishery become a restricted entry fishery. This occurred in the following year when only 59 divers were granted access to the restricted fishery - down from more than 100 divers in 1979.
The number of divers has been reduced progressively to address excessive fishing effort and increase viability. Individual catch quotas were introduced in 1989.
The share management scheme began in 1996 and in early 2000 the Fisheries Management (Abalone Share Management Plan) Regulation 2000 (www.legislation.nsw.gov.au) was gazetted.
For further information on the Abalone Fishery telephone (02) 6652 0983.
For detailed information on the abalone fishery, read: