The Victorian scallop industry has decline substantially and does not appear to be recovering. Scallops have traditionally been one of Victoria's largest fisheries and the ability to resurrect a failing native fishery offers obvious benefits. Victoria has not committed time or moneys to the development of reseeding but in light of the recently successful scallop trials in Victoria it is an area that MAFRI has shown some new interest. This economic feasibility study and the potential direction for research is now very relevant to Victoria Fisheries.
There is considerable industry interest in enhancing saucer scallop populations for subsequent harvest. The Western Australian government has granted exclusive use areas off the Western Australian coastline for two companies to undertake pilot enhancement work. Neither company has developed suitable hatchery technology to support their proposed operations. There has been long-standing industry interest in enhancement in Queensland, and pilot hatchery research on saucer scallops is underway at the Bribie Island Aquaculture Research Centre.
The Queensland trawl industry is facing restructuring and considerable reduction in the area in which it can fish. Profitability in the industry appears to be generally low (Taylor Moore, pers. com.). It is not difficult to forecast that environmental pressure groups will attempt to further curtail industry activities and reduce fishing effort in and adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and that this will further impact on the industry's economic performance. At the same time, the trawl industry is a significant generator of employment and economic wealth in regional areas where unemployment levels are far higher than the national average. Any proposals that have realistic potential to improve social and economic welfare have obvious benefit to such communities, as well as to the national interests.
Those scallop enhancement operation that been successful are now making super-normal profits. The Japanese enhancement operations, for example, are giving returns in the order of 400% profit. While this figure does not adequately address or account for previous research and development expenditure, there is no doubt enhancement operations run properly, and supported by adequate investment and infrastructure can be financially profitable. At the same time, there are numerous examples of scallop enhancement and culture operations that have been financially unsuccessful. Operations such as those in Newfoundland, Scotland, and, to a lesser extent, in Tasmania, have failed to become long production sources of scallops. Developing feasibility studies and business plans seems to be the only way to determine whether it is worth while making the considerable investments in time and money needed for a successful enhancement or culture project.
A working party of persons with technical and practical experience in scallop biology, hatchery technology, economics, management, fishing operations and processing technology was convened to develop a study on the feasibility of enhancing and culturing saucer scallops (Amusium balloti) in subtropical waters, and commercial scallops (Pecten fumatus) in temperate waters, of Australia. The working group met in two informal workshops and undertook a study tour of a successful enhancement operation in New Zealand.
The working party has developed a feasibility study and outline of a business plan for saucer scallop marine ranching and enhancement, and has developed an outline for procedures which could be used when undertaking scallop culture and enhancement. Extensive economic modelling has been used to evaluate both procedures.
On a global basis, we found that scallop culture has been attempted in first and third world economies with very mixed success. There has been little consistency of operational conditions or economies for scallop culture operations that have succeeded. Successful operations could be associated with low labour costs, prolonged cultural and economic commitment to scallop culture, unique and favourable environmental conditions or disregard for long-term environmental impact. Unsuccessful operations, on the other hand, were often undercapitalised, lacked long-term commitment, or were based on species with very slow growth and prolonged lags between settlement and growth.
Keywords: Saucer scallop, commercial scallop, Amusium, Pecten, enhancement, feasibility.