Coastcare volunteers are urging people to lobby the state government over the next few days for an extension of the 12-month moratorium on commercial pipi harvesting.
The moratorium ends on 1 June but submissions close next week and NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson will consider whether to lift the ban soon after.
Ballina Coastcare says, ‘this is our last chance to make a difference and save molluscan life’ on north coast beaches.
The drastic depletion of pipi stocks along NSW beaches in the past few years prompted the moratorium to allow them to regenerate and sparked a number of theories as to why they were fast disappearing.
Over-harvesting, disease and the rapid change in sand movement because of erosion have all been blamed for their demise.
Ballina Coastcare spokesman Lee Andresen said the mollusc populations on north coast beaches were a vital part of the food chain and ‘their loss is a major destabilising factor in ecosystem health’.
‘They are also traditional Indigenous heritage food stock for the Bundjalung people of this coast,’ he said.
During a recent inspection of South Ballina beach with Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson and Tweed fisherman/pipi catcher John Clarke, Mr Andresen said they ‘found not a single mollusc’.
‘John’s conclusion is that there is no sign of the start of pipi recovery even after the one-year moratorium,’ he said.
‘We do not have enough scientific knowledge as to the causes of their decline, and these causes may be multiple. We need an indefinite harvesting moratorium.’
Kingscliff beach wormer Pete Gladwin told media last year he saw very few pipis while collecting worms and ‘there was a time when there were so many pipis on the south beach (of Kingscliff) that the worms couldn’t get up through them’.
Mr Andresen said the moratorium had produced no evident recovery of the pipi population on South Ballina beach with ‘not a pipi in sight’ and ‘no research whatever appears to be underway into to the causes, probably multiple, of the pipis’ massive decline’.
He said the total harvesting moratorium should be extended indefinitely ‘until the causes are better understood and populations have recovered to a fully harvestable level, however many years that may take’.
Regular monitoring of pipi stocks also should be undertaken to map their possible recovery.
Submissions should be sent to: Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, via email [email protected] or by post to PO Box 600, Yass, NSW, 2582.