FRUSTRATED at Fisheries Victoria’s insistence that pipi harvesting at its current rate is sustainable, the Friends of Venus Bay Peninsula have commissioned their own independent study.
There have been two studies on the Venus Bay pipis, the latest was published in January 2013 with a research date of 2011.
Friends vice president Mae Adams said the data from the studies shows a different conclusion to what has been promoted by Fisheries.
“When we saw the second study in February 2013, we became concerned and had a lot of questions.
“We felt those questions weren’t convincingly addressed and so we decided to seek a second opinion.”
The group took the two studies to Dr Greg Parry, a marine ecologist and director of Marine Ecological Solutions.
Ms Adams said Dr Parry’s report, delivered in July this year, substantiates concerns raised about the sustainability of current harvesting raised by the Friends and others.
“The review by Dr Parry gave us even more cause for concern,” Ms Adams said.
“In fact, the commissioned report, which is based on the data in the two student studies, shows an alarming decline in pipi numbers.”
The Friends brought their concerns to Fisheries Victoria, and the recently appointed executive director Ross McGowan in September requesting further monitoring and a management plan.
Mr McGowan said he wished to visit Venus Bay, but the group has yet to receive a formal response from Fisheries.
“In the meantime harvesting is continuing and we’re about to go into the peak time when thousands of pipi harvesters come to Venus Bay,” Ms Adams said.
“We are uncertain how Fisheries Victoria can continue to promote that the pipi harvest is sustainable, as this is not supported by the studies undertaken at Cape Liptrap Coastal Park so far.
“In fact, the conclusion of the first two studies was not that harvesting was sustainable, but rather that more monitoring and research would be needed.
“A stock count using the same sampling locations in the other studies will mean the results can be compared from 2011 to 2013.
“It will show if the pipi is maintaining population, or if they are in decline across Cape Liptrap Coastal Park.
“We need answers to these questions to guide management decisions.”
The friends have set a target to raise $4000 for the independent study by Marine Ecological Solutions, who are offering in kind support.
“We expect to have results by the end of this year and will make the research results available to the general public,” Ms Adams said.
The report will not study the impact of the pipi harvesting, including digging up the beach, the effects on shorebirds and other marine life, or the lack of toilet facilities which is leading to people defecating in the sand dunes.
“We recognise these are significant problems, but they are outside the scope of the pipi count,” Ms Adams said,
“The study will focus on the number and size of pipis found at the selected beaches.”
Ms Adams said the next steps depend on the study’s conclusions.
“If the results show a significant further decline in pipi numbers, we will take this information firstly to Fisheries to push for improved management of pipi harvesting and the beach that supports a biologically diverse environment.
“If the study shows there is a robust population, we will request ongoing monitoring.”
The studies along Venus Bay’s beaches will be conducted over the next few weeks.
For more information or to donate, visit www.friendsofvenusbaypeninsula.org.au.
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