Ballina Shire Council has urged the state government to ban the commercial harvesting of pipis on South Ballina Beach immediately as locals fear it’s wiping them out.
Councillors at their last meeting unanimously decided to write to premier Barry O’Farrell, primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson and Ballina MP and north coast minister Don Page calling on them to ban harvesting until a thorough investigation of into the sustainability of pipis along the coast had been carried out.
They also want protection of the pipi incorporated into the recovery plan for the endangered Pied Oyster catcher, which feeds on the mollusc.
Local fishermen blame the NSW government’s recent lifting of a moratorium on commercial harvesting of pipis on the north coast for their demise.
In a coordinated strategy for the past two months, local fishermen surveyed designated pipi harvesting stretches of the beach, monitoring pipi numbers.
Their worst fears were realised when they noticed a large section of the beach which previously had a healthy pipi population had all but disappeared since harvesting resumed.
The concern sparked a protest against harvesting by fishermen and environmentalists two weeks ago.
Council has also invited Ms Hodgkinson and executive director of Fisheries NSW, Dr Geoff Allan, to hear the locals’ concerns.
Mayor David Wright told Echonetdaily the call to action was needed because the pipis had been ‘wiped out in six weeks’.
Greens Cr Jeff Johnson said the pipi was a vital food source for the endangered Pied Oyster Catcher that roosts on the beach.
‘There has been a dramatic decline in the numbers of pipis over the last decade. The pipi plays an important role in the food chain,’ Cr Johnson said.
‘The dart and whiting also coordinate their “spawn” with that of the pipi between January and April. It’s important for the local ecosystem that pipis are given time to recover.
‘In Queensland and Victoria, commercial harvesting is not allowed, and for good reason.’