MAVERICKS with no accountability’ is how the new incarnation of the DSE/DEPI has been described by the Friends of Venus Bay Peninsula.
The group is reeling after it was discovered the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) is allowing commercial harvesting of pipis on a section of beach along Cape Liptrap.
The notice allowing commercial harvesting was dated October 17, 2014 – and gazetted October 31, just three days before the Napthine Government went into caretaker mode prior to the state elections in November.
Venus Bay resident Lorraine Norden reported seeing a trailer load of pipis being taken off the beach on Thursday afternoon.
“On Thursday afternoon two men were seen push/pulling a large four-wheeled trolley/trailer off Beach 1, filled with pipis and covered with hessian bags,” she said.
“When confronted by a local resident regarding the huge amount of pipis in the trailer, the men stated that they had a commercial fishing licence from Fisheries Victoria and that what they were doing was approved by the Fisheries department.
“Up until this incident (and currently according to Fisheries Victoria website) the situation has been that pipis at Venus Bay can only be collected by licensed recreational fishers or those exempt from licences.
“If accurate, this change of circumstances has not been advertised, there has been no consultation with interested parties; it appears to have been brought in by stealth in the hope that no-one would notice.”
DEDJTR said allowing commercial harvesting was a “continuation of pre-existing arrangements” (a previous notice from 2013) and as there was limited vehicle access at the permitted areas, there had been “no significant commercial pipi catches recorded at Venus Bay”.
While the official notice identifies Inverloch beaches 1, 2 and 3, the GPS coordinates show commercial pipi harvesting is allowed along Cape Liptrap, Walkerville and Sandy Point beaches.
DEPI/DSE reports have previously said recreational pipi harvesting along Venus Bay’s beaches were sustainable due largely to the relatively undisturbed ‘commercial’ section.
Friends of Venus Bay Peninsula president Mae Adams said commercial harvesting in the previously identified refuge area of Venus Bay beach undermines statements by Fisheries Victoria that the recreational harvest was sustainable.
“Our members are very upset; we are angry, we feel like we’ve been deceived by Fisheries,” Ms Adams said.
“The whole premise of Fisheries’ argument that recreational harvesting of pipis was sustainable was based on this refuge area.
“It beggars belief that they would now open this up to commercial harvesting.”
Ms Adams said while the group recognises commercial harvesting could be regulated, the group believes any additional harvesting will have huge ecological impacts – a view that has been supported by marine ecologist, shorebird specialist and others.
“There has not been any stock count of what is currently available and the department has ignored the community funded study done in 2013,” Ms Adams said.
That community study, performed by marine ecologists showed pipis were smaller and that more studies were required to monitor the population.
With no baseline data, the group contends the department is putting the Venus Bay Peninsula eco-system into jeopardy.
“The whole argument of Fisheries was that they had the refuge population that could sustain the rest of the beach, but now they’re opening it commercial harvesters.
“It is not acceptable that Fisheries Victoria continues to act as a maverick organisation with no accountability for damage to ecosystems.”
The Friends group has vowed to continue working constructively with others to achieve improved management of Cape Liptrap Coastal Park.
Commercial quantities of pipis can be collected from beaches along the Cape Liptrap Coast Park near Venus Bay and Tarwin Lower, Walkerville and Sandy Point. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources says the announcement is nothing new, but residents of Venus Bay are appalled at the apparent lack of transparency and due diligence into the sustainability of harvesting pipis in the area.
The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources says that since there is limited road access to the commercial fishing zones for pipis along the Venus Bay beach – between the two green arrows, the population is safe and will not be overharvested.