Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Call for pipi harvest ban

Tensions are on the rise in the South Gippsland tourist town of Venus Bay as summer brings hordes of pipi collectors to the town's beaches.
Locals are worried that pipi collectors are flouting the rules - taking more than their designated bag limit of the small mollusc that is found in the sandy intertidal zone of Venus Bay's beaches. They also say pipi collectors are taking the molluscs to sell at markets in Melbourne. In Victoria, pipis are only allowed to be collected for personal consumption. It's illegal to harvest pipis for commercial use.
Beverley Walker of the Friends of Venus Bay Peninsula group says locals want a temporary ban on collecting pipis on certain beaches in the area, and they also want authorities to ramp up enforcement to catch those harvesting pipis illegally.
"A moratorium on the three beaches that are in danger of losing their population would be a good idea, but how you would supervise that would be anybody's business. We have people coming back at night because they've hidden the pipis in the bush, on the dunes."
But State Government authority Fisheries Victoria says a moratorium is not necessary. Fisheries Victoria executive director Anthony Hurst says the pipi population in South Gippsland is sustainable.
"There is no question that it is sustainable and there is certainly no justification for a ban on the activity. We encourage Victorians from all backgrounds, from all walks of life to get out and enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the fishing experience. Venus Bay has been discovered in recent years, there are large numbers of people from Italian, Greek, Asian, Pacific Island nations who are now residents in Victoria, finding their way to Venus Bay in summer and enjoying playing with the family, doing the pipi twist and bringing up a few pipis. What we are trying to do is run quite a strong education and enforcement program to make sure people are doing the right thing."
Mr Hurst said most people collecting pipis at Venus Bay were doing the right thing, with Fisheries Victoria's compliance rates for Venus Bay at about 95 per cent.
"We've been following up some reports from the community down there that they've seen Venus Bay pipis for sale in Melbourne markets. We've followed those up, they've proven to be incorrect, in fact in many cases the pipis concerned are confused with pipis coming in from South Australia, unfortunately labelled as Venus Bay pipis, but being sold in the markets quite legitimately."
He said research showed that pipis in south-east Australia were prolific breeders.
"These things become sexually mature at 30 millimetres, at one years age. There is a good range of pipi sizes on Venus Bay beach at the moment, in fact it appears to be a particularly strong recruitment this year. The harvesting has been going on for a number of years and we are still seeing a very strong pipi population."



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